Allscripts CEO talks EHR innovation, AI and the cloud

Paul Black points to misplaced records priorities, innovation aimed at the provider experience, artificial intelligence's increasing role and more.
By Bill Siwicki
11:53 AM
Paul Black CEO Allscripts EHRs

Paul Black, CEO of EHR maker Allscripts. (Credit: Allscripts)

Electronic health records have come a long way – but for many users, they have a long way yet to go.

Physicians and nurses who are tasked with using the complex tools day in and day out have usability issues that stand in the way of spending quality time with their patients. They often ask, 'Am I taking care of the patient or the computer?'

But in recent years, EHR vendors have been innovating with their technologies and making usability strides with tools such as artificial intelligence and the cloud. Innovation with EHRs is key to making the health IT experience – and the overall healthcare experience – better for patients and caregivers.

Healthcare IT News interviewed Paul Black, CEO of Allscripts, an EHR giant, to discuss EHR innovation and the state of electronic health records today.

Q: On the subject of innovation in EHRs, technology should make the human experience easier for providers and health systems. Where is health IT failing healthcare organizations today with EHRs?

A: It isn't that health IT is necessarily failing, but priorities have been directed toward less innovative endeavors, such as meaningful use requirements. For the last several years, and since the advent of meaningful use, some health IT development has been more about checking the box with technology, due to tight timelines and the changing scope of the rules. This has had a profound effect on innovation and only over the past few years has the effect of physician burnout been made clear.

Q: On the flipside of this coin, how is health IT today successfully innovating and making the EHR experience for providers better?

A: Health IT companies that are embracing technology to deliver human-centered design features and products will be the software suppliers that are most sought after. 

These software suppliers will need to look within, create design expertise and hierarchies that support human-centric design thinking, support industry-leading training, and enable anyone who has a product role to lead by design and revamp clinical interactions with the products by doing practice-in-motion studies to inform the design.

Health IT companies need to look beyond what is typically in use today – look to the consumer market and pull in those technologies to make the EHRs more holistic in addressing the healthcare industry's challenges.

For example, socioeconomic barriers to healthcare are a large challenge for organizations today. Let's take one specific issue, which is inadequate transportation for patients to get to their follow-up appointments, which creates gaps in care and potentially adds up to 22 million missed appointments per year. 

Integrating ride-share capabilities into the EHR makes it very easy to ensure patients have reliable transportation and incorporates a consumer-familiar product that already is trusted by patients, outside of healthcare.

Allscripts has successfully done this with our Lyft integration into Sunrise. Software suppliers, like Allscripts, who make the decision to prioritize creating solutions to these types of challenges, are effectively delivering a human-centric technology experience.

Q: What role does artificial intelligence play in innovation with EHRs today?

A: Currently, artificial intelligence is playing a small role in EHRs. However, over the next two to three years, this role will increase exponentially. On the clinical side, AI is still getting its "sea legs" and has slower adoption, only due to the refining and training of the AI models.

One area where it is being heavily adopted is with patient summarization. This is the concept of organizing the patient's clinical data in a way that makes it easy for a provider to consume it. They don't have to manually gather the pertinent information, as it's fed to the provider right in their workflow.

AI will be used to provide curated clinical decision insights at the point of care, serve up critical information that will help clinicians make faster decisions, and automate clinical tasks that have bogged down clinicians today and have led to clinician burnout.

On the revenue cycle side, AI and RPA (robotic processing automation) are being used today to ensure accurate and timely claims, reducing the workloads on the back-end processes and driving down revenue-cycle administrative costs.

The use of these tools, as well as AI bots, will increase significantly and eventually automate the revenue-cycle process, further driving down costs and providing increased revenue to power hospital growth initiatives.

Allscripts is excited to be moving along a development road map that includes these AI innovations, as well as additional machine learning and cognitive support, through our healthcare IT.

Q: What role does the cloud play in innovation with EHRs today?

A: The cloud plays a significant role with innovation. The ability to do complex computing in the cloud will enable healthcare IT advances that have not been achieved on local computation stacks. 

Healthcare IT software suppliers that can take advantage of these cloud innovations will be poised to deliver point-of-care cognitive support, quickly, to their provider organizations.

Allscripts recognized early on that the future was in the cloud and invested heavily in an extended strategic partnership with Microsoft and the use of the Azure cloud-based capabilities to enable the best possible healthcare IT cloud experience.

Among other things, these types of partnerships can bring healthcare organizations innovations like Microsoft Text analytics, part of Azure cognitive services, which automates the clinician's workflows in the areas like problem-list management, actionable orders and progress=note creation – reducing cognitive burden and driving better outcomes for patients.

With the ability to amass large amounts of federated data and the ability to perform advanced analytics, cloud computing can provide faster evidence-based treatment protocols that have typically taken up to 10 years to get from bench to bedside. 

This will now take a fraction of that time, providing personalized care plans that will increase the speed to wellness and reduce the cost of healthcare compared with the sometimes trial-and-error approach to medication and treatment management.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bsiwicki@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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