We’ve all asked ourselves the question: “What did we do before smartphones?” Now more than ever, our daily lives revolve around these increasingly powerful, not to mention addictive, devices that keep us constantly connected with the world around us. From both a personal and professional perspective, mobile devices and the apps that drive them have become indispensable in our day-to-day activities – especially when it relates to communication.
While I, like many of us, still frequently utilize a laptop, I could easily get through most workdays using my preferred mobile device – iPhone and/or iPad. I still prefer to type emails, send Slack messages, and create blog posts using a traditional keyboard. However, I am also getting more and more comfortable with the improvements in voice recognition technology embedded in most smartphones as a substitute. It has never been easier to connect and collaborate with colleagues, share and store massive amounts of information, coordinate transportation, and update Enterprise applications (Salesforce, Workday, etc.) – all from one of these handy mobile devices. That is, unless you happen to be a healthcare provider. In their current environment, U.S. healthcare workers are trapped in the mid-nineties from a technology perspective. Slow, clunky EHR applications built with little to no thought in terms of end-user experience have slowed productivity levels down to a crawl. This not only impacts the user experience – it also negatively impacts the patient experience in the process. Dr. Steven Stack, president of the AMA, recently addressed this issue during a town hall meeting in Atlanta:
“We have technology that brings graduate degree-educated people to their knees. There’s something not right here. Too often these tools blunt their efficiency, diminish their effectiveness, and get between them and their patients.”
Why have most EHR vendors largely ignored providing quality mobile applications to their users? In my opinion, it’s due to one or more of the following:
Regulation Has Stifled Innovation
Most EHR companies have been completely consumed with keeping up with regulatory requirements as a result of the Meaningful Use incentive/penalty program and other quality initiatives. Rather than focusing on streamlining workflows with modern tools that appeal to the modern provider, vendors have been forced to dedicate the majority of their resources to adhering to what has been an endless stream of industry protocols. ICD-10 is the latest example of an initiative that can hinder the development of workflow tool enhancement.
It is Difficult for Large Companies to Pivot
Large companies with complex organizational charts, multiple management layers, and bureaucratic decision making processes tend to move slowly when it comes to addressing rapidly changing market trends. Most EHR companies have too many competing priorities, not to mention large customer bases to support that carry core product issues and cannot assign resources to develop innovative solutions.
Technology is Changing Rapidly and it’s Hard to Keep Up
The rise of mobile devices and enterprise-grade app availability has emerged quickly in other industries like Banking and Enterprise Resource Planning. You can now take a picture of a check from anywhere in the world and deposit it to your account. Solutions like Workday are disrupting the way large workforces access and distill data into actionable insights. Unless mobility and innovation are the core focus of an organization – the people, processes, and technology required to make these innovative solutions come to life will not be deployed.
Revenue is Declining and Revenue Cycle Management is Becoming the New EHR
Now that the EHR market is fully saturated with only a few vendors capitalizing on the predicted market unicorn, EHR vendors are focused on providing value to their customer base primarily through the distribution of billing or revenue cycle management services. While lucrative if deployed effectively, the resource requirements to execute these services are extensive and can detract even further from core product advancements.
As a result of the challenges described above, many EHR firms have chosen an external partner to help them create a better EHR user experience. These organizations are nimble and innovative, and continue to leverage the investment made by most practices in implementing their system of record. Whether through marketplace/app store concepts or open API developer programs, progressive EHR companies will continue to make it easier for workflow and design-focused organizations to have an even more substantial impact on their users through the mobile devices that never leave their side – and probably never will!
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