As business models shift toward value-based, clinically integrated care, it becomes increasingly important that electronic health records (EHRs) and ancillary clinical systems (e.g., lab/imaging systems, monitoring devices) help to advance clinical outcomes. Smart organizations realize that to improve outcomes, systems must be optimized. But optimization is complex, and from planning to execution there are many voices that participate in the conversation. One voice, however, deserves to be heard above all others: that of clinicians.
As the individuals who contribute to and make decisions based on data, clinicians are the authorities on system gaps that hinder their ability to provide the best care possible. Without input from physicians, nurses, and clinical staff, the optimization of any medical system will ultimately fail to meet the needs of end users.
By now, most organizations know that a physician champion is necessary for successful clinical system adoption. But a champion is more than just a clinical chief or a savvy tech user. True physician champions will have a solid understanding of system use, gaps in work flow, and functionality changes demanded by providers. They must partner with organizational leadership to shape how clinical data is integrated into the organization’s clinical strategic plans (meaningful use [MU], health information exchange, accountable care organization [ACO], etc.). Physician champions also need to work with vendors and internal stakeholders to strike an appropriate balance between customizing the system to meet clinical requirements, standardizing clinical processes, and maintaining system integrity. Above all, organizations need physicians to make the tough calls with respect to setting standards, enforcing decisions, and alleviating staff apprehension.
The Nursing Staff
Nurses are progressively taking on a greater portion of primary patient care, most notably the daily management of patient data. Nurses oversee the execution of physician orders and serve as the central conduit of information among caregivers via communication through clinical systems. Nursing input is integral to understanding necessary system configuration for patient care. Much like physician champions, it is important for nurse champions to accurately diagnose system gaps and predict future data and work flow needs. Because nurses interact with many of the professionals involved in a patient’s care, they can provide a more holistic understanding of how multiple end-user groups leverage data for patient care.
The Clinical Support Staff
Lastly, organizations cannot overlook the role that medical assistants, lab and pharmacy technicians, social workers, and dietitians play in patient care. The need for clinical support staff to manage care through tracking, reporting, and taking action on clinical quality metrics has increased in the wake of realigned value-based incentives, the growing need for chronic disease management, a provider shortage, and an influx of new patients resulting from the Affordable Care Act.
Involving clinical support staff in decisions about configuration, new features, and work flow changes is vital to system optimization, as it helps to ensure processes are realistic and will be employable on a large scale.
Optimizing systems based on clinical needs is essential to the provision of high-quality patient care and the survival of an organization in a value-based marketplace. It’s an endeavor that is as complex as it is critical, requiring input from multiple stakeholders. But listening to the clinicians who rely on those systems each day significantly improves the likelihood of a successful optimization.