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Cerner CEO: EHR Usability Key for Digital Health Transformation

The health IT vendor’s new president and CEO, David Feinberg, MD, MBA, said EHR usability is key for advancing the digital health transformation.

During the opening keynote at the 2021 Cerner Health Conference, the health IT vendor’s new president and CEO, David Feinberg, MD, MBA, said that EHR usability is key to the success of the digital health transformation.

“Cerner and frankly other EHR companies have done an incredible job of automating processes in digitizing medical records for more than 40 years,” he said. “In itself, that's a huge accomplishment. Digitized records, for one, need to be usable. They need to be measured by how they enable caregivers to spend even more time at the bedside and less time at the terminal.”

EHR optimization, for example, is set to cut down on clinician burden by streamlining workflows, Feinberg offered.

“Banner Health this summer worked with Cerner to improve their intake form so their nurses could spend more time helping patients and less time documenting,” Feinberg noted.

The health system is on track to save 9,000 hours of clinical time and eliminate 10 million clicks annually, he said. Cerner has scaled the use of this health IT dataset to more than 100 organizations, Feinberg added.

However, he emphasized that EHR usability is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of “the true promise of the digital age.”

As an EHR vendor, Feinberg noted that Cerner’s job is to provide clinicians with the tools that allow them to better care for patients. EHRs should help nurses and doctors avoid errors and provide clinical decision support to suggest treatment paths that might be best, he said.

EHR systems should also provide healthcare stakeholders with data to understand community health, such as who is at risk for certain conditions and what kinds of interventions are working to boost health outcomes, Feinberg said.

“Records should help the world avoid, or at least minimize, the effects of the next pandemic,” he added.

Additionally, EHRs should be easy to understand so that patients can avoid unnecessary tests and medications, Feinberg said.

When healthcare providers cannot easily access patient health information, this creates “noise,” he noted. A clinician should know when a patient’s last colonoscopy happened instead of placing that knowledge burden on the patient. A patient shouldn’t have to spend hours in a reception area waiting for lab results, and should be able to make sense of an explanation of benefits.

“That’s all noise,” he said. “We need to change our mindset. We need to eliminate all of that from the experience that none of us actually signed up for of being a patient.”

Feinberg emphasized that as the digital health transformation progresses, health IT needs to be reliable and understandable.

“In my first note to my colleagues at Cerner, I told them I want to do great things together,” he said. “It starts with staying focused on what's right for patients and by extension what's right for clinicians.”

“The vision of using data to do more great things even faster hasn't changed; that's the brass ring,” Feinberg said. “But to achieve that vision, fixing the EHR is job number one. We have to make it easier to get the right information to the right people at the right time to eliminate that noise.”

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