Four EHR Work Flow Mistakes to Avoid

April 10, 2013

One out of every four physicians says their EHR is negatively affecting their work flow.

Physicians are making great strides when it comes to EHR adoption and implementation rates, but many are not reporting positive results. That’s according to Physicians Practice’s 2013 Technology Survey, in which one out of every four respondents who said their practice has implemented an EHR also said their EHR has negatively affected their work flow.

While many of the work flow woes may be due to the fact that EHRs do not always meet physicians’ daily needs - often because many EHRs are created primarily by tech folks rather than the providers who will be using them - practices are not completely off the hook for the work flow issues.

In fact, technology experts say there are many EHR mistakes practices make that negatively affect work flow. Here are four of them:

1. Failing to undergo a thorough ‘discovery process’
Marcia Peterson, practice director of managed services at healthcare consultancy Beacon Partners, recently told Physicians Practice that work flow is the “biggest mess piece” practices experience when implementing EHRs. The reason: Many practices fail to undergo a “dedicated discovery process” to determine how their current work flows will need to change post-implementation, she said. For practices struggling with work flow after implementing an EHR, Peterson said stepping back, assessing current work flows, and spending time determining how that work flow needs to change could help turn things around. 

2. Over-manipulating the system
Jeffery Daigrepont, senior vice president of national healthcare consulting firm the Coker Group, recently told Physicians Practice that another mistake made by practices is trying to make their EHR and the processes associated with it mimic their previous paper-based systems, “They tend to over-engineer or over-customize the system in the very beginning,” he said. “Oftentimes the over-engineering or over-customizing is the doctors really attempting to make the system perform the way the paper-based processes used to be.” Rather than altering their EHR to accommodate their work flow, practices should alter their work flow to accommodate their EHR, he said. “You have to completely re-engineer the work flow of your practice.”

3. Following a rigid structure
Laura Kolkman, founder and president of health information exchange consulting firm Mosaica Partners, recently told Physicians Practice that another mistake made by practices is failing to assess and reassess how their EHR is affecting practice operations. As practices begin to utilize their EHRs more fully and explore its various features and functions, they must continue to reassess their work flows to accommodate changes, she said. “As you implement it, take time to modify your work flows, assign roles appropriately, and assign a process appropriate to ensure the addition of the technology enhances your work flow.” 

4. Overlooking opportunities
Reproductive endocrinologist and OB/GYN Robert Wah, chief medical officer at healthcare consultancy CSC, recently told Physicians Practice that another mistake practices make is failing to see, and take advantage of, the opportunities the EHR provides.  A big one: improved access to information. “In the electronic world, the opportunity is there because now you can have simultaneous access by multiple people to the same information,” said Wah. “That really should open up the number of ways you can do your work flow and your business process because it doesn’t chain you down to that sequential process that paper gives you.”


The full results of our 2013 Technology Survey will be available in June. Last year’s results are available here.