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EHR Optimization, Clinical Automation Top Health IT Priorities Next Year

Health IT vendor executives say that healthcare organizations will look to EHR optimization and clinical automation in 2023 to address clinician burnout.

As the healthcare industry faces staggering levels of clinician burnout, EHR optimization and clinical automation could help alleviate administrative burdens and improve provider satisfaction, according to health IT vendor executives.

A recent KLAS report found that clinicians who are very dissatisfied with the EHR have almost three times the proportion reporting they are likely to leave compared to clinicians who are very satisfied with the EHR.

Leaders from health IT vendors MEDITECH, Surescripts, and athenahealth discussed with EHRIntelligence their digital health predictions for 2023.

EHR Optimization

As many healthcare institutions end 2022 in the red, pragmatic digital health investments will be key, according to Christine Parent, associate vice president of EHR vendor MEDITECH.

"Our prediction is that health systems will be seeking new ways to leverage either their existing technology investments—whether it's through an EHR or another technology added on to their EHR—or incorporate new technologies to increase quality, reduce costs, and impact patient satisfaction and engagement," Parent told EHRIntelligence in an interview.

She emphasized that health systems should ensure they use their EHR to its optimum potential.

"Over the past three years with the pandemic, there's been a lot of changes in new functionality that EHR companies have been sending out to the customer," Parent said. "Once you do the optimization and you start looking at very focused areas for extending that digital health investment or innovation, then you're talking about unlocking the full potential of the EHR."

She noted that healthcare organizations will look to leverage technology in 2023 to support predictive analytics, more advanced clinical decision support, and revenue cycle and supply chain automation. Additionally, Parent said precision medicine will continue to be top of mind for health systems.

"Precision medicine has an incredible potential to improve patient outcomes and transform care," she said. "MEDITECH anticipates continued interest within organizations both at an academic and community level."

Further, Parent predicted that health systems will look to clinical automation to support overburdened providers.

"There has been a focus in the previous year or two around the automation of front and backend areas like revenue cycle and supply chain," she explained. "As we enter 2023 with critical staffing shortages and industry burnout, this is an area on the clinical side where innovation is ripe, and the impact on a health system, especially around the clinician and provider experience, would be a game changer."

Clinical Automation

Frank Harvey, CEO of health IT vendor Surescripts, also emphasized how health IT could help address staffing shortages in 2023.

"Practitioner burnout is at epidemic proportions," Harvey said. "One study has recently shown that in addition to the shortage we already have, 20 percent of primary care physicians plan to retire in the next two years, so it's only going to get worse."

He said that health IT solutions that automate burdensome processes, such as prior authorization, can significantly reduce clinician burnout.

"If a prescription comes into our network that potentially is a prior authorization prescription, we can look across all that patient information that we have and pull out the pieces that are needed for that prior authorization to get okayed and populate that record," he said. "You don't have to have somebody go in, look at each step, and pull it up manually."

"We can get that done prospectively, which streamlines the process," Harvey added. "The more we can streamline and make automatic, particularly as the number of people available to do those jobs continues to tighten, you really save the burden."

Additionally, Harvey pointed out that health IT that delivers the right information to the right physician at the right time is key, especially as the pharmacist's role in care delivery continues to shift.

"The practice of pharmacy evolved very rapidly during these last two years," he said. "During the pandemic, a lot of health systems were closing down. A lot of times, the only healthcare professional available to patients was the pharmacist. Patients turned more and more to the pharmacist to answer questions and give advice."

"Pharmacists regained some of those things they've always been capable of doing, particularly the PharmD-trained pharmacist," Harvey added. "Health IT can support the transfer of health information from the practitioner in the inpatient or community setting to the pharmacist as they're dispensing or providing other care to the patients."

Technology to Support Value-Based Care

Bret Connor, COO of EHR vendor athenahealth, emphasized the role health IT will play as the healthcare industry shifts towards value-based care.

"It's increasingly important, given the aging healthcare population we have in the US and continued increases in healthcare costs, that we spend more time thinking proactively about how we can manage the care of patients and help them stay healthier, thereby driving down the cost of healthcare and helping them to live healthier lives," Connor said.

"We're going to continue to see a shift away from health system and hospital-dominated healthcare and more toward ambulatory outpatient medical care," he continued. "Generally, the industry understands that our goal is to keep people out of the hospital and to help them stay healthy and to bring care closer to where they want care, which is closer to their home."

He also emphasized that health systems will look to modern health IT platforms and allow organizations to leverage proprietary innovations, innovations of their EHR platform, and innovations of ecosystem partners.

"Care providers are going to be looking toward using technology that can enable better patient outcomes, a better patient experience, and can help them better manage the cost of care," Connor said.

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