The unsung benefits of HIT dashboards

Hospitals and health systems are more technically proficient than ever, as they should be. Meaningful use requirements are driving the uptake of EHRs. New CMS quality standards have put the spotlight on clinical performance metrics. Billing complexities demand advanced revenue cycle applications.  And the move to eliminate paper and simplify processes has ushered in a new breed of enterprise workflow management tools.

Yet with all these enabling technologies, many healthcare organizations are still plagued by inefficiencies, lackluster quality scores and uncontrolled costs. Why? They are finding it difficult to leverage the many healthcare IT applications that are designed to help their organization achieve sustainable improvements. Today’s healthcare leader requires transparent access to clinical and operational performance data aggregated from a variety of sources and delivered in real time – a dashboard, for short.

In her keynote session for last fall’s HIMSS Virtual Conference, Judith Murphy, RN, vice president of IT for Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, explained the importance of leveraging tools that will help healthcare organizations navigate the complex meaningful use landscape. As an example, she described Aurora’s use of a dashboard specifically for comparing CMS’ Stage 1 objectives and measures with the organization’s progress toward compliance, and said it has proven to be a particularly valuable tool.

Dashboards are also vital for tracking revenue cycle performance. With the help of its member organizations, the Healthcare Financial Management Association has developed a “MAP App” that allows users to measure revenue cycle performance and apply evidence-based strategies for improvement. It features a dashboard that tracks an organization’s performance in key areas, highlighting trends and even providing alerts that notify leadership of diversions from the norm.

The use of a dashboard to unify and track disparate processes can help drive a hospital toward greater efficiency. When a dashboard feature is integrated with an organization’s electronic workflow management solution, decision makers from every area of the hospital – scheduling, admissions, human resources, contract management, supply chain and so on – have access to vital metrics that can be leveraged to identify areas for improvement that will impact overall performance.

Of course, an aggressive use of HIT dashboards assumes a level of organizational transparency which, not all healthcare administrators may be comfortable with. The good news is that more are realizing the importance of shared information throughout their enterprise and are relying on these real-time information sources to help the organization change course more quickly when problems arise. My question for the holdouts is, “What are you waiting for?”

Shawn Curtiss is Director of Product Management for FormFast, a provider of electronic workflow solutions. FormFast serves more the 850 hospitals internationally with easy-to-use software that helps healthcare organizations accelerate their progression from time-consuming manual processes to fully automated workflows.