EHRs hinder population health progress while MACRA has potential to ease workflow burden, doctors say

Simplified regulations around MACRA meaningful use could address the loss of efficiency and usefulness of electronic health records software to enable more flexibility for the doctors using them, said Shawn Griffin, MD, of Memorial Hermann.
By Jack McCarthy
10:22 AM

Hospitals are gearing up to for population health management, according to a new survey by the nonprofit eHealth Initiative, but complex electronic health records systems continue overburdening physicians at the point of care enough to inhibit progress.

eHealth Initiative’s survey of population health trends found that 68.1 percent of healthcare responders had created new roles or hired staff for population health. Also, 68.1 percent said they had begun activities and 76.6 percent had purchased population health or analytics technology, with 72.3 percent anticipating making such investments.

Eighty-three percent of respondents, meanwhile, said they measure success by intermediate outcomes and healthcare processes (72 percent), cost savings (70 percent) and patient satisfaction (70 percent). Thirty-seven percent said they're integrating patient-reported data. 

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The survey drew on responses of individuals used from accountable care organizations, hospitals and health systems, physician practices, health insurance companies and elsewhere.

That said, physicians continue being overburdened by reporting into complex systems, said Shawn Griffin, MD, chief quality and informatics officer for Houston-based Memorial Hermann Physician Network.

Tricia Nguyen, MD, executive vice president for population health, Texas Health Resources, and president of the Texas Health Population Health, Education and Innovation Center, agreed and said some of the deficiencies with EMRs lie in a lack of interoperability.

“If we are truly going to manage populations, we need to be able to deliver evidence-based pathways, guidelines and protocols at the point of care, and the only place that’s going to have an impact is in the EHR because the doctors are only working in the EHR,” Nguynen added. “Because the systems don’t talk to each other it’s not easy to integrate and share data across. That’s one thing we could solve, and if we could make it transferable across care settings and providers that (would be) a huge win.”

Memorial Hermann’s Griffin pointed to one positive sign with recent updated regulations in MACRA, which reflect a prevailing view that EHRs are too complex, with a resulting loss of usefulness and efficiency.

“The updated regulations regarding Meaningful Use and MACRA legislation was really an enlightened view of recognizing that EMRs were getting overbuilt and there was a loss of efficiency and usefulness for their tools,” Grffin said. “So I’m hopeful that the simplification we have seen with MACRA will allow greater flexibility for physicians to concentrate on workflow and outcomes not on whether they checked a set of boxes on the screen.” 

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