Electronic health records (EHRs) were championed as the salvation of healthcare record keeping when first introduced under the Obama administration more than a decade ago. But here we are, so many years later, with little to show for our efforts at EHR implementation. At the core of the problem is communication.
A fantastic article published by the American Journal of Managed Care identifies the communication problem with pinpoint accuracy. Its author discusses the fact that there are hundreds of EHR systems along with dozens of distinct EHR platforms active on nearly every healthcare network. But none of them can effectively communicate with all the rest.
This affects a lot of things. For instance, ineffective digital communication continues to hamper physician referrals. Hospitals in certain kinds of specialists know this all too well. They are not seeing the referrals they expect to see. And it is not a data issue. It’s not even an issue with doctors being unwilling to make referrals. It is a lack of communication between systems.
We Have Plenty of Data
Curtis Gattis, the author of the AJMC article, points out that the healthcare system has plenty of data to work with. All those EHR systems have seen to that. They collect reams of data on patients of all types. Yet the data is not being used to its fullest potential.
Again, communication is a problem. But there is another challenge: data is being collected without any real thought to how it will be used. That is the trap of the big data concept. You collect as much data as you can and then figure out how to leverage it later. You end up with a lot of data that has little practical value. It is just taking up space on a server.
For the record, we take a different approach to the data in our healthcare professional database. Our specialty is serving up accurate and targeted data to healthcare recruiters, hospitals and healthcare groups, and even digital marketers. Our data is first-person data as well. This means that it is voluntarily provided by the target audience.
Don’t Wait for a Solution
Why do we bring all of this up? To make the following recommendation: hospitals should not wait for the communication problem to be solved. That solution is still many years down the road. In the meantime, hospitals should be going directly to physicians to work out referral issues.
EHRs serve a valuable purpose. There is no doubt of that. But right now, they simply aren’t up to the task. Hospitals looking to increase their referrals need to go out and pound the pavement, so to speak. They need to connect with individual physicians, family practices, group practices, etc.
Going directly to physicians with referral messaging puts the hospital at the top of the list for future patients. How so? Because physicians are more likely to refer to organizations that they are familiar with. Make them familiar with your hospital and they will be more comfortably making referrals for your services.
The Coming Consolidation
While you are thinking on all of that, you might want to consider the coming consolidation. There is no way the EHR concept can move forward as long as there are hundreds of proprietary solutions. There will come a point when consolidation will be necessary in order to establish some sort of standardization. Only then will the communication problem be solved.
For now, the inability of EHR systems to communicate is hampering physician referrals. Hospitals and specialists cannot wait around for a communication fix. It is time to get out there and make the connections necessary to increase referral rates.