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Electronic health records vendors eye move to comprehensive systems

As an influx of data places greater demands on EHRs, vendors are realizing the need to shift toward comprehensive health records to better manage multiple different data sources.

In recent years, it has become unlikely to find a hospital or medical organization that still uses paper charts. This is the result of the modernization path health groups have taken in order to move away from paper records and adopt electronic charts, which offer more efficiencies and reduce medical errors. Fast forward to 2018 where electronic health record adoption rates exceed 80% and it becomes clear that there is a new demand for systems that can manage not just electronic charts, but also population health, behavioral health and patient-generated data. For some vendors, the move toward a comprehensive health record to address the new need is an expected evolution of their EHR, but can all electronic health records vendors make the shift?

Healthcare providers recognize that the more health information available to them the more opportunities they have to improve patients' outcomes. To address that, more hospitals are looking to deliver comprehensive services to their patients and ensure their systems are able to support a wider range of data. With more emphasis being put on mental health services, genetic data, patient-generated data and external data from outside providers, healthcare groups are beginning to look to electronic health records vendors for capabilities that can centralize and consolidate relevant data.

Epic CEO Judy Faulkner said in a recent user group that Epic recognizes the need to ensure their EHR platform provides functionality that can address managing care delivery data from outside the hospital. The platforms must also ensure that it can manage data not currently tracked today such as social determinants, Faulkner said. Other electronic health records vendors are taking the same steps toward adapting their products to the changing data landscape and services. Some have already labeled this shift as a move from EHR to comprehensive health record (CHR).

The need for more value-added services and data in an EHR does not stop at just adding functionality for precision medicine, behavioral health and population health. A growing number of health systems are also looking to enhance the functionality of their EHR by using AI capabilities to analyze existing data. This allows healthcare providers to gain new insights such as identifying high-risk patients through predictive risk models and determining best treatment options for patients based on machine learning and advanced algorithms. While these capabilities are available in the marketplace independently, the demand for one common and unified solution that can offer a CHR, as well as all the add-value services, is what many are hoping for.

Today, the majority of electronic health records vendors are making key adjustments to their systems to ensure continued innovation, but also address some of the demands providers have around interoperability. Vendors like Epic, Cerner, Allscripts, eClinicalWorks and AthenaHealth are leading the way in adding new functionality and services to make their products into more of a CHR. In many ways, these changes will also encourage some healthcare organizations to reevaluate their current EHR platform and whether or not it is capable of supporting the new demand for more data outside of the traditional four walls of a hospital.

Hospitals today are more interested in a comprehensive platform that can sustain their growing need for more diverse data than what they have been accustomed to, and some of the popular vendors have continued to adapt over time to the changes in the marketplace. While no one vendor can claim they have it all, a key component electronic health records vendors should note is the importance of keeping their products flexible and interoperable to promote innovation.

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