The Biggest Mistake to Avoid When Considering a Switch to EHR-Embedded Messaging

The Biggest Mistake to Avoid When Considering a Switch to EHR-Embedded Messaging

How the desire for quick cost savings can result in long-term consequences to care efficiency

Each year, a small number of healthcare IT buyers are tempted by their EHR vendor to replace existing secure texting software with EHR-provided chat tools. On the surface, this makes sense. After all, EHR chat tools are fully integrated with the EHR and they seem to perform similar functions. Plus, it’s one less vendor to manage, and it’s generally included at no additional cost. A win all around, right? Not quite.

The mistake most IT buyers make in this situation is equating a secure texting solution with a more comprehensive clinical communication platform. They are vastly different. The secure texting solution you bought four years ago may have evolved into something much greater. The mistake that often results from this evolution is that healthcare organizations end up with what is called an accidental architecture.

This is compared to a more proactive approach that starts with creating a plan to implement a scalable, highly integrated, collaboration platform that drives a wide range of outcomes, both clinical and financial, in ways the EHR simply cannot.

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Short-term Gains, Long-Term Consequences

The exploration below showcases the hidden human and financial costs that can arise when solutions like EHR-embedded messaging are forced upon clinical teams whose needs extend well beyond most chat app capabilities.

Increased Burnout Among Clinical Staff

With rising numbers of clinical staff leaving the healthcare profession each year, the need for technology that makes clinicians’ lives better – not worse – has never been greater. EHR vendors generally fall short when rolling out add-on technologies that mimic what smaller, purpose-built vendors provide. 

Purpose-built vendors spend every working day listening to customers, developing new features, quickly iterating on existing ones, and continually analyzing user behavior in order to reach ever-greater levels of performance and optimization to solve the very specific use cases that can spell the difference between burnout and attrition and high job satisfaction.

Erosion of IT Buying Power

The consolidation of functionality within the EHR weakens the bargaining power of IT buyers as outlined in the recent Gartner report, “The EHR Megasuite Oligopoly Will Result in Less Differentiation and Innovation – and Higher Total Cost of Ownership”. In the paper, Gartner analysts detail how CIOs who consolidate functionality are setting themselves up for a future of higher costs, compromised products, less interoperability, and fewer buying alternatives. 

Slower Digital Transformation

It’s been a decade since Meaningful Use was enacted, and EHR vendors have helped achieve the massive task of digitizing healthcare records and billing. Even still, clinicians today struggle to get certain types of patient data out of the EHR in an efficient way, and embedded messaging tools only address EHR-related use cases.

“Sorting through large amounts of information and finding the nuggets that apply to a particular patient’s situation is something that computers ought to be good at. But we still have problems of knowing what data is important and what is the right treatment and prevention plan for each patient.

—Harvard Business Review

by John Glaser, June 12, 2020

This is arguably where clinical collaboration platforms bring the biggest value. The incorporation of middleware into their offerings to support a wide range of hospital systems like nurse call, physiologic monitors, and VoIP calling has propelled these platforms to heights that the EHR just hasn’t reached.

Advanced clinical collaboration platforms have been optimized for the intelligent delivery of alerts and alarms tied to specific events, reducing alarm fatigue, and accelerating care delivery. Additionally, advanced platforms integrate with the EHR to deliver alerts for labs, images, and ADTs tied to specific patients and care teams, and they do so in the context of the communication app so collaboration can happen immediately.

Identifying On-Call Physicians

Patient scheduling is a critical function of the EHR, but knowing which physicians are available and when can be a guessing game. More and more, clinical collaboration vendors have acquired or built scheduling solutions into their platforms that integrate with the EHR so when a doctor goes on vacation, patients can’t be scheduled during that time. With access to physician schedules, scheduling patient appointments is more seamless.

Different EHR Vendors

Clinical collaboration platforms sit outside of disparate EHR systems and can provide the infrastructure that ties all facilities, all departments, and all people together; even staff members without clinical credentials such as EVS, translation services, or DME staff. This health system-wide communication network can be especially important when weather events or ransomware attacks bring down the EHR and the entire organization needs to be kept informed. Further, many EHRs have periodically scheduled downtime, which means the EHR-based messaging is also down. Naturally, this is when you will need communications the most.

Limited or No Access for Non-Clinical Staff

Connecting employees across departments and facilities is difficult enough, but when non-clinical support staff do not have EHR login credentials or their permissions are dialed back, workflow efficiency starts to break down. Cumbersome or time-consuming onboarding processes can add to the IT burden of onboarding users en masse or when dealing with a constantly revolving staff.

Cloud-native collaboration platforms make onboarding and offboarding employees extremely easy, both in terms of end-user self-service and IT administration.

Want to learn more?

From implementation to everyday use, healthcare communication should make collaboration and care coordination. Schedule a demo to learn how TigerConnect can integrate and enhance your EHR.

Will O’Connor, M.D. is TigerConnect’s Chief Medical Information Officer. He’s an industry-known physician executive with more than 20 years of healthcare experience focused on operations, strategic planning, consulting, client delivery, and thought leadership across the healthcare industry.

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