When integrating EHR and telehealth, one size doesn't fit all
The explosion of telehealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered, in turn, conversations about how to achieve seamless electronic health record integration.
Some telehealth platforms offer agnostic integration with a host of EHR systems, while some EHRs offer their own in-house telehealth option.
What works for one system won't necessarily be right for another, suggested panelists at Wednesday's Teladoc-sponsored Telehealth Innovation Forum.
When selecting an EHR vendor, or contemplating a switch, there are several factors to weigh, argued Dr. Simon Samaha, cofounder of Kentan Staffing Solutions.
The first, he said, is to consider whether the vendor you're working with actually offers a single-solution platform, or whether it has acquired other platforms along the way.
"Where are you starting from, and is it a truly integrated platform, versus one vendor that's offering multiple platforms?" he said.
He also encouraged thinking of a trade-off analysis: "What is it I'm losing in feature functions [with a single vendor] versus gaining in integration?"
The third thing to keep top of mind is the intended use case: More specialized care might require a more specialized solution, said Samaha.
That range of needs was made evident during Wednesday's panel, with health IT vendor Computer Programs and Systems President Boyd Douglas pointing out that many smaller or more rural hospitals might not have the resources to invest in multiple specialized platforms.
"We've always felt like the more they can get from a single vendor, the better it is for them," Douglas said.
Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals Connected Care operations VP Frank Sites agreed that "smaller organizations don't have the capital to invest in each of these platforms on their own."
"In larger organizations," like Jefferson, with its 6,000 physicians and 7,400 nurses, "you don't have much of a choice but to go after … what is it that's going to serve the best?"
About half the system uses Epic for its EHR, he said, with the other half on other legacy systems. Jefferson Health's stroke telemedicine program, which came to fruition five or six years ago "to reach patients where and when they wanted to be reached," as Sites put it, uses InTouch.
"We really look at … how can we solve the problem, and what is going to get us to where we're at?" said Sites.
"We also take the approach to build in redundancies" in different platforms to solve different problems, he continued.
Ultimately, Sites said, it's important not to get too caught up in the "bells and whistles" of EHR offerings.
"We need to think about: What is the next actionable step we need to take in managing this patient?" he said.
Amid all the questions about integration and features, he said, "we sometimes forget the simple workflows and the things we need to put in place to support [them]."
"The ability to connect seamlessly, independent of which legacy vendor you're with, is going to be more important," said Sites.
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.