Healthcare Leaders Reveal Their Most Common EHR Roadblocks—and How to Overcome Them

By Jason M. Polli

Electronic health records (EHR) have played a major role in the healthcare industry for over two decades. However, despite their widespread adoption, leaders still struggle with obstacles that prevent their EHRs from reaching their potential to benefit both providers and patients.

A recent survey of leading healthcare CIOs reveals four of the most critical barriers that prevent organizations from getting the most out of their EHR investments—and action steps that can better facilitate value.

Barrier #1: Physician frustration due to inability of EHR to meet expectations

According to the healthcare CIOs who participated in the survey, one of the most significant barriers to EHR optimization is unmet expectations from physicians.

“Our EHR has helped improve patient safety and quality of care,” said one CIO. “But the physicians complain it slows them down and they spend extra hours on documentation.” Another respondent agreed that physician frustration runs high: “I’ve been doing implementations for a long time, and the physicians see EHRs as billing systems and not clinical improvement tools.”

This is a significant statement, since provider satisfaction is a defining factor in gaining the most value from an EHR.

So why do healthcare CIOs believe their EHRs are failing their providers? In part, there is always something new and never enough training.

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that the right amount of training not only helps providers get more from the EHR, but also significantly increases their overall satisfaction with it. The KLAS Arch Collaborative cites training as the No. 1 predictor of physician EMR satisfaction.

“We set these lofty targets for the physicians on value and quality metrics, but we don’t give them the ability to really spend time in the EHR to truly adopt it,” one survey respondent said. “We don’t invest in deploying it properly.”

Choosing the right consultant can address this issue and measurably improve provider utilization, efficiency, and satisfaction. Look for a consultant who will sit down with your organization to discuss your goals, providing dedicated resources and “white glove service” through kickoff, go-live, and beyond. The ideal consultant also should deliver prompt support as questions arise, ensuring physicians and other staff become proficient and efficient as quickly as possible—a crucial step to implementation success.

Barrier #2: Lack of initial and ongoing training

After pointing to problems with training as a key issue in physician frustration, the CIOs surveyed also specifically called out a lack of training—both in the initial implementation stage and on a continual basis—as one of the most common roadblocks to EHR optimization.

“Epic recommends 12 hours of training, but we only did eight,” one CIO said.

Every update or change to an EHR compounds this problem, requiring even more training hours—often right when staff and providers are getting used to the system.

“We need to make the training for the EHR a required clinical competency,” one CIO shared. “We should pay [clinicians] to complete the amount of training needed so they will take the time to do it.”

Once again, this is where choosing an expert consultant can help. The right consultant will provide targeted, hands-on training to position your organization for a positive EHR experience well beyond go-live. These experts understand that delivering a solid base of EHR training is not about delivering a one-day class or sending over a set of videos. Instead, training must offer physicians and staff a meaningful experience, with orientation to the system in ways that directly relate to their daily work.

Barrier #3: An ever-changing security landscape

The healthcare CIOs surveyed noted that EHR security challenges have grown more complex, especially during the pandemic.

“We’re trying to keep up, but it’s becoming more difficult,” a healthcare CIO responded. Others agreed, with one stating, “I’ve heard providers say that cybersecurity has put up barriers for them in optimizing the use of the EHR and being able to innovate.”

So how can healthcare companies reduce the threat of security breaches that compromise their  sensitive data? Leading organizations are finding value in a cloud-based approach that integrates EHR infrastructure into security. This allows organizations to operate inside a permissioned shield while maintaining the required strict privacy protocols.

Barrier #4: Lack of insights despite vast amounts of data

One of the most significant barriers to EHR success is an inability to gather all the structured and unstructured data that is relevant to a patient. When this happens, providers are less able to make informed decisions at the point of care.

“The critical component here is truly trying to make sure that the data can be acted upon,” said one CIO. “That is going to be a critical differentiator for success moving forward.” Without access to meaningful, actionable data and tools to use it, real digital transformation and improvements will remain out of reach. “We have all this data, and it needs to tell a story,” another participant said. “In other industries, that is a huge deal, but there’s less expectation for that in healthcare.”

In large part, this situation stems from issues within organizations’ cloud data lakes. Because data sources have become more disparate and data volume has grown exponentially, cleaning and preparing the data has become more of a burden.

Additionally, leaders face challenges in organizing large volumes of diverse data from the multiple sources these data lakes represent. Because of this, it is essential that healthcare organizations leverage a separate cataloged data lake that allows them to locate the specific data they need when they need it.

That’s why healthcare organizations are exploring end-to-end solutions for managing cloud data, with a focus on:

  • Curating, cleaning, and preparing poly-structured data while reducing the burden on staff
  • Self-cataloging data and metadata to make it searchable and usable for the organization and its providers

With this approach, healthcare CIOs can take control of their data lakes, giving their providers access to their patient’s full story and enabling them to make life-saving decisions.

Get the most from your EHR investment

Despite more than 20 years of ongoing EHR use, healthcare organizations still face roadblocks in extracting the most value from their EHR for themselves, their providers, and their patients. Fortunately, with the right partner, many of these roadblocks can be overcome.

With comprehensive training, ongoing assistance, and access to solutions that improve security, healthcare providers can transform the way they identify and treat illness, improve quality of life, and avoid preventable deaths through big data.

The benefits gained are ones that no healthcare CIO can afford to ignore.

Jason M. Polli is vice president of client success for Healthcare Triangle.