3 keys to reporting for rural providers

Some small hospitals find that getting information out of EHR systems can be more difficult than putting it in
By Jeff Rowe
08:04 AM
Rural providers

The case has been made many times that technology will help healthcare organizations become more efficient. But even for those who manage to implement new EHR systems, how many actually know how to make the best use of them?

According to Gary Bernstein, founder and director of business intelligence solutions at Waltham, Mass.-based DataSense, that question is particularly troublesome when it comes to smaller, rural clinics.

Bernstein says he founded DataSense 15 years ago to help companies get necessary reports out of their IT systems.

"To me," he explained, "as an IT professional, the easiest thing in the world to learn is how to use a reporting tool."

But that's not the case for many organizations. In recent years, DataSense has seen its business grow significantly in the healthcare sector, as providers that used grant or federal monies to implement EHR systems have found that getting information out of those systems can be more difficult than putting it in.

As Bernstein sees it, small and rural providers in particular should be aware of three benefits to generating effective reports:

[See also: Quality reporting an essential piece of IT equation]

  • Organization-wide reporting. In Bernstein's experience, there are a number of networks in rural areas that consist of clinics with different EHR systems, which can make it difficult for system administrators to get a handle on the amount and types of service being provided. Enabling these networks to pull together reports from a variety of data systems, he said, enables them "to look more easily across their organizations instead of just clinic by clinic." For example, key metrics such as the number of blood pressure or diabetes patients can be more readily combined and analyzed.
  • Supply chain reporting. According to Kevin Fournier, DataSense's manager of business intelligence, another key benefit of centralized reporting relates to the need for network administrators to manage their product supply chain as efficiently as possible. "For example," he said, "rural doctors can see how many flu vaccines they've given out over the past few years," giving them a better idea of how many they should have on hand for the coming season.
  • Better practice management. In addition to network-wide benefits, Bernstein pointed to the advantages effective reporting can bring to individual providers. "They can look at how many patients they've seen, both inpatient and outpatient, over any given time," he said. "They can get a better idea of the kinds of conditions they've been treating."

"Each new application is making life easier in one respect, but the data silos persist," said Bernstein, summing up his observations of the IT changes he's witnessed in recent years. "Which still makes it difficult for administrators and providers alike to understand their practices and patients to the fullest extent possible."

The goal, he said, "is to have clarity, consistency and accessibility across an entire network."


Rural photo from Shutterstock.com.

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