Balancing good patient care with effective quality reporting

January 11, 2019
Robin Ntoh

Four ways advances in EHR technology can help providers achieve mandated MIPS target performance to not only report but also improve patient care.

During their time in education and training, healthcare providers are taught that patients and their health are of the highest priority. They later find providing care has an unusual competitor-charting.

As healthcare organizations embrace value-based care, they are moving toward a more proactive approach to care delivery, which involves an emphasis on wellness, chronic care management, and patient engagement. There is also a push for greater collaboration among providers across the care continuum.

Healthcare organizations are simultaneously being tasked with regularly and reliably reporting performance measures that demonstrate care quality, costs, and innovation. Providers must submit these measures as part of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)-the flagship program of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).

Although the concepts of value-based care and quality reporting are meant to go hand in hand, many healthcare organizations struggle to realize success with both endeavors. In an effort to collect the required data for robust quality reporting, providers get bogged down and sidetracked during the patient care episode.

That’s not only a patient dissatisfier but can also negatively impact care quality if healthcare providers misses key information from the patient. As such, healthcare organizations may fall into a vicious cycle as they strive to effectively report quality but miss opportunities to improve it, thus falling short in achieving target performance levels.

Part of the reason why providers are having so much difficulty balancing the two efforts is that many of the technology systems used to support patient care and quality reporting are out of date. Today’s healthcare professionals are now discovering the versions they use, which were created early in the digital healthcare era to meet the timely requirements of Meaningful Use, were not designed to keep pace with the accelerating rate of change. A number of the electronic health records (EHRs) currently in use consist of clunky interfaces, limited data analytics, and inefficient layouts that necessitate several clicks to navigate are only some of the troubles providers face.

Though these EHRs were created to fit an earlier industry need, CMS has acknowledged the frustration they now give to the healthcare industry and that advances are needed to reduce barriers for providers. This leaves a majority of healthcare organizations wondering what to do to resolve current issues without delaying future progress.

Fortunately, exciting opportunities await. The 2019 MACRA requirements dictate that healthcare organizations upgrade their technology to a system with 2015 EHR certification. With this in mind, now is an optimal time to review the technology offerings available in the marketplace.

Consistent frustrations over inefficiencies have pushed the industry toward recent advances, and new systems are changing to enable easier access, smoother documentation, clearer reporting, and increased interoperability.

Here are four key ways new EHR technology will help providers simultaneously meet the goals of improved patient care and better reporting.

 

Offers robust configurability

Historically, EHRs have not been overly flexible in what content they capture and how they record it. However, new solutions give healthcare organizations the ability to fully customize screens by provider preference and patient needs.

Systems are now able to tailor the drop-down menu to include only relevant choices based on patient history and problem list, and EHRs can follow the provider’s preferred flow. Ophthalmologists, for example, could see pertinent information for their specialty that applies to the particular patient being seen, and it would be displayed in a way that follows the provider’s favored workflow.

This customization yields more efficient charting without sacrificing accuracy while also reducing time providers spend on documentation.

Streamlines quality reporting

 Predictive charting can determine whether a patient qualifies for preselected MIPS measures in real time and then present providers with related data fields during the patient encounter. That technology helps providers collect the appropriate information while patients are still in the room.

By simplifying data collection while preserving accuracy, the technology frees providers to spend more time with patients and less time collecting data. This can yield higher quality patient visits that ensure focused care and greater patient satisfaction, two MIPS reporting categories.

 

Leverages the cloud

Cloud-based technology lets providers remain up-to-date with the latest compliance regulations as well as the tactical functionalities without having to go through cumbersome upgrades. A vendor can make changes in the cloud so new features are immediately available for use the next time providers log into the system.

Cloud-based solutions also support greater access from anywhere. Providers with multiple offices can travel freely between locations and have immediate access to patients’ medical records without losing information in transit. They can also respond to patients’ need more quickly if they receive an urgent call outside of regular business hours.

The technology enables better communication among colleagues, as any provider with the proper credentials can access patients’ records. Increased communication fosters more collaborative care and facilitates reporting on past procedures and next care steps, resulting in more holistic, long-term care plans. Altogether, these capabilities help providers deliver responsive and patient-focused care while supporting effective reporting.

 

Encourages informed decision making

New technologies include sophisticated data analytics and reporting features that draw from clinical, financial, and operational databases. When healthcare providers run reports from these systems, they can more easily identify areas of strength and weakness.

Not only does this allow providers to pinpoint the best possible measures for reporting, it also helps them identify ways to improve patient care. Instead of the EHR functioning merely as a repository for clinical data, analytics capabilities turn the system into an essential resource for clinical and operational improvement.

Healthcare providers must seek a mindset of innovation. As technology continues to progress, it’s important to avoid the roadblocks healthcare organizations ran into before, such as burdensome data entry processes, lengthy software updates, unbalanced actions of reporting, and providing quality patient care.

By employing this type of forward-facing technology, healthcare organizations can achieve a balance between value-based care initiatives and quality reporting, ensuring they respond to patient needs while optimizing reimbursement.

 

Robin Ntoh serves as a senior professional services consultant at Nextech Systems, Inc., and has more than 20 years of experience working with healthcare providers. She has guided clients as a Nextech implementation trainer and now leads the professional services consulting team for Nextech Products.