When Is an EHR Like a Tesla?

091214-blogMany of us simultaneously adore and fear the high-tech gadgetry that has entered our day-to-day lives. We adore the benefits today’s technology can bring—convenience, speed, connectivity—yet we fear the ramifications of the unknown. From mobile phones to golf clubs, there are so many choices out there, and we all want to make the right choice. But how do we determine what is right for us? Ironically, our high-tech decisions are usually made in a very low-tech way—through discussion with people we trust. In my circle, I’ve always been the one that friends and family have come to for insights on all things technological.

I’ll admit I’m a technophile, but with a caveat: I’m only for technology that actually helps our lives in meaningful ways. Just because a new gizmo exists doesn’t mean it is right for my life—even though many times, it’s just that it’s not quite right, quite yet. I’ll give you an example: lately, I’ve been getting barraged with questions about cars with alternative-fuel sources. Most often I’m asked, “When are you getting a Tesla?” My response, “Not now,” seems to surprise those who know me.

Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly support the inroads Tesla is making in bringing electric-powered cars into the mainstream. These are gorgeous automobiles that are winning awards from all the right sources for everything from performance to safety. Those who have them brag about being on the leading edge, and with every right. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that some of these proud owners are plagued with a fear... a fear that, at some point, they will literally run out of energy because there aren’t enough charging stations. The infrastructure simply is not in place yet. So if I run out of electricity—a very real possibility—I don’t care how amazing these cars are; I’m still stuck, and may as well be driving an AMC Gremlin.

What does this have to do with what I do? Meaningful use makes many high-tech demands of the physicians we serve in the HCIT industry, and it seems that some of those demands don’t consider the implications to the physician in a practical application. Why are doctors—whose time is best spent interacting with patients in a very human way—being relegated to capturing every bit of data imaginable when chances are they will only leverage a very small portion of the information? This is especially true when that data (a) may not be relevant to every patient and/or practice, and (b) may not ever be shared because the information superhighways for this exchange are still under construction.

The right data is critical, of course, and that’s something that medical professionals have long been experts in diagnosing. So what happens when a shiny new EHR technology suddenly makes unreasonable demands on doctors’ time, but with limited tangible benefits? We start to interfere with meaningful patient interactions, and practice-wide productivity, in the name of compliance. Again, the right technology will help in the right way—and in our industry, I believe that means IT solutions that help doctors do more of what they do best: spend meaningful time with patients, and do it more efficiently and with better outcomes.

So if you want to know when I’ll consider getting a Tesla, the answer is when the proper infrastructure is in place to handle it. Until then, I’ll find the vehicle that best serves my needs today and in the foreseeable future. And if you’re looking for my advice regarding mobile phones, golf clubs, or EHR solutions, it’s exactly the same.


Scott Ciccarelli

Scott Ciccarelli

CEO at SRS Health
Scott Ciccarelli, Chief Executive Officer at SRS, has more than 20 years of diverse management and operations experience garnered as a senior executive at GE, where he headed two of the company’s businesses—most recently, GE Healthcare’s Services, Ambulatory and Revenue Cycle Solutions. His areas of expertise include business strategy, leadership development, operational rigor (Lean Six Sigma), and the delivery of enhanced value for customers through quality improvement and innovation.
Scott Ciccarelli

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5 thoughts on “When Is an EHR Like a Tesla?

  1. Great philosophy, and I agree with your pragmatism. I’m the “propeller head” in my circle as well, and I’m always applying the practicality sniff test when folks ask my technical advice.

    The EHR and meaningful use situation is frustrating for everyone. Government regulations force a lot of unnecessary work, a lot like an overly-pushy waiter who keeps trying to upsell at every turn. The extra work takes time and processes that penalize good patient care. You guys are walking a tightrope, figuring out how to satisfy US while meeting federal requirements.

  2. Having retired from the practice of medicine after 40 years, 2 weeks ago, I agree with your assessment of EHR’s and their time consuming tasks that may or may not be valuable. I think EHR’S are the Elephants in the Cost of Care living room.

  3. I agree with your assessment of the health IT industry and the technology and infrastructure still being developed. Since health IT seems inevitable in the future so what we should do is to prepare and train the doctors in using the health IT, Technology, smart gadgets. so that when they enter the professional life they don’t have to face the difficulty of EHRs or other health IT gadgets taking too much of their time. http://goo.gl/ZSf5t8

  4. Alex,
    Thanks for your comment. From what I’ve seen, medical schools have started to integrate the use of EHR and other health IT into their curricula. As a result, recent graduates are accustomed to using technology as an integral part of their practice of medicine.

  5. I enjoyed this article Scott.

    I’d like to comment briefly on physicians time spent entering information into an EMR and how this impacts their practice and takes precious time away from their patients.

    Several things…

    First, I’ve observed physicians at many healthcare organizations never touch a computer and definitely do not enter anything into their ‘new’ EMR system. They have what are called ‘scribes’ do it for them. The scribe’s job is to follow the physician around and document into an EMR system what the provider requests. Secondly, RNs and other health care workers can legally and do enter information into a patient’s record like the patient’s vitals, history, medication list and so on. The compliance no nos are entering in medication orders and signing for them or signing clinical documentation about the patient when the provider is not standing over her or his shoulder__even then this not good practice for an RN.

    The majority of time, EMR documentation impacts a physician’s work when either the physician is not very computer literate or does not know his or hers EMR system very well. Once a savvy provider learns the system and creates, or borrows a colleague’s, smart phrases and begins using them the doctors time on the computer becomes much less….even much less than before when using paper charts.

    Lastly, with ‘Big Data’ in mind, all the data collected during patient’s visits can be analyzed, collated and a report generated showing, for example, where flu patients live geographically in a city and if the age group of the majority of patients points to elementary school age children, the schools in that area can be alerted to this healthcare trend and they can notify parents that it might be a good idea for their children to get flu shots as there is an outbreak of flu in their school and the general vicinity. This is why it’s a good idea to collect all this information. The next steps will be to get someone to do the analysis and write the necessary custom reports. Currently, most EMR reports are simple canned reports that come native with their systems. Someone would also need to read and review and then use the gleaned information presented on the reports. Here in lays one of the major problems of EMRs and meaningful use.

    It’s like in your Tesla analogy…for sake of argument, if there were charging stations through the city or throughout the country for that matter, and one has a map of where all these charging stations are but he or she never look at the map to find them …then is it the map maker’s fault…or is it a lack of nearby charging stations? Or simply, is it a finger… pointing to cause or reason that doesn’t exist?

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