As I turned the corner and neared the point where I could look out at the Cape, I was greeted by the sight of the waves tossing small boats and the wind scattering the watery foam of the bay’s fury.  My trip to Chattum, MA for the Massachusetts Hospital Association & Health System conference conjured the vision of The Perfect Storm threatening Hospitals and Health Systems.

As pressure systems from Reform Legislation, Consumerization, and Alternative Payment Models collide to shape the waves of digital disruption, Health Systems face increasing tension to ensure and implement technology strategies that lower costs, increase care quality, improve patient engagement, outcomes, and experiences.  The complexity is wind in the sails for digital transformation, but at what cost?

Ninety-eight percent (98%) of Hospitals and Health Systems have adopted some form of EHRs over the last decade, with investments ranging from a few to hundreds of millions, up to over a billion-dollars into leading EHR product offerings according to Becker’s Health IT & CIO Report.  Epic and Cerner are the dominant players representing 50% of hospital EHR market share.

These solutions go far beyond providing access and secure sharing of electronic health records, they are intended as best practice & process systems for Health System management. The exhale of relief for Senior Executives and IT Teams at Hospitals and Health Systems after completing the implementation reminds me of this scene from the movie with Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) and Captain Billy as they experience the eye of the storm.  Just when they think they’re gonna make it, the winds (hallway conversation of user dissatisfaction) and waves (Board Room demands for ROI) kick up as adoption falters, and lack of integration causes work-arounds.  And the BIG WAVE, the cost and effort required to play catch up due to patting yourself on the back and believing you were done.

All-encompassing EHR systems are costly to tailor as well as maintain, and are less flexible when trying to incorporate user specific workflows and other requirements. Nurse dissatisfaction rates hamper adoption and in many cases, have a negative effect on productivity. Dissatisfaction has reached an all-time high according to a Black Book Research Study, as cited in this article, “Hospital Nurses Forced to Develop Creative Workarounds to deal with EHR”.

The critical key to ever realizing ROI is adoption, which requires a flexible user interface that can easily be altered to fit departmental needs.  These systems need the ability to connect to other disparate systems that are not part of the EHR portfolio.  Solutions like Salesforce Health Cloud and Appian BPM for Healthcare can be used to bridge the gap between the needs of the health system and the needs of the users or patients.

The good news for Cerner is that they’re seen as the most nurse user-friendly in-patient EHR of the ten or so systems studied. This challenge while prevalent in the US, is not isolated to our country as pointed out in a recent McKinsey article; worth a read to gain better perspective.

So, what does this mean? While many Health System Executives want to bask in the momentary sunshine of overcoming behemoth implementations, they will soon find that the promise is but the valley of the wave in the Perfect Storm of digital disruption. Digitally mature Health Systems recognize that while foundational, EHRs require support from other platforms that empower system usage, data harvesting and sharing, as well as self-service capabilities that motivate patient engagement.

To truly ride the storm and get back to safe harbors, Health Systems need to optimize a holistic strategy that ensures “real” DIGITAL (Technological change) TRANSFORMATION (behavioral change) and produces measurable ROI. Click here to learn HOW

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Author: Vaughn Rachal, Sr. Director Digital Transformation – Health Care & Life Sciences (@vrachal)