Amanda Hansen’s father had diabetes for most of his life until his death in March 2017. Like many patients, they had to collect their own medical records and carry reams of paper from provider to provider to control their own healthcare journey.
Seeing the persistent problems managing his condition in a paper system fueled Hansen’s passion for health IT. He is now president of AdvancedMD, a vendor of medical office software.
The case for electronic health record systems is clear, but there may be issues with implementation, data interoperability, and overall clerical burden for providers.
Hansen believes health IT vendors have a responsibility to help close the connection with patients — especially those with chronic conditions — by making sure providers are ordering the right labs and prescriptions and that patients are engaged and have the right questions to ask.
Hansen says he wants to fix EHRs, which is why Healthcare IT News sat down with her to discuss solutions, her father’s experience, and her thoughts on technologies that can better help chronic conditions.
Q. Your father’s health experiences have had a major impact on you. Please talk about their experiences and how they influenced you.
A. Since my father was a toddler, he spent most of his life managing his type-1 diabetes. As they aged into their 40s and 50s, it was a big part of both my life and my mother’s life. He saw numerous specialists, underwent transplants, sat through thousands of hours of dialysis and suffered vision loss. We lost him at the age of just 60.
While I remember many wonderful things about my father, now, as a leader in health IT, I think back on his medical experience and lament the limitations of healthcare in this era.
Unfortunately, managing his chronic condition with pre-dated electronic health records and paper records brought a lot of baggage – literally. My mother and I carried large binders with us to his appointments, filled with papers detailing his complex medical history.
Every specialist, doctor and surgeon bounces off this past, holding the true weight of our grief and trauma. He always has more questions, trying to piece together the facts of the case like a historian. I imagine how much simpler and more streamlined our collective experience would be if my father had an electronic file with digital records.
As healthcare technologies evolve, I am relieved that patients no longer have to carry binders and face many of the hurdles created by paper charts. For every solution we develop, for every interoperability problem we solve, we’re making healthcare seamless for providers and patients.
Episodes of care and chronic disease management tasks can be daunting. They shouldn’t be. We are committed to transforming healthcare so the experience is seamless, unified and complete.
question You believe that health IT vendors have a responsibility to help providers “close the loop” with patients. Please explain.
A. While we’ve ditched those binder loads of paper in favor of digitization, there’s still more health IT vendors must do to ensure a closed-loop experience. Especially for chronic care and complex patients, workflow processes can help prevent integrated care gaps, which put patients at risk of adverse outcomes.
Lab and pharmacy functions are well integrated into patient management tools, so those elements are included for comprehensive, coordinated and efficient care management.
Today’s successful EHRs support providers and engage patients to facilitate reaching the right patient at the right time with the right treatment. True interoperability between key systems and providers helps clinicians guide chronic care patients with minimal time and effort.
Automation is a big part of this. We leverage automated tools so providers can spend more time cultivating meaningful relationships with patients.
Although these relationships are always built on a foundation of human interaction, they are strengthened as patients become involved in their care. By being in frequent contact with patients and through the method of their choice – text, call, email or a portal, for example – communication and task management takes place on their terms.
By offering online messaging, appointment scheduling and reminders, From bill payment, retrieval of medical records and results, pre-arrival preparations for a more streamlined check-in, and similar tasks, providers encourage patients to engage, follow through, and be proactive.
Guided by the right technology, chronic care management is a true team effort. As a health IT vendor, it is our responsibility to facilitate this engagement.
Q. You said you want to fix EHRs. What is wrong with them and what do you see as a solution?
A. As anyone in healthcare can attest, EHRs have advantages and disadvantages. Generally, the problems are solvable and far from the advantages of EHRs. What we’ve seen with technology is that some solutions are “cookie cutter” and cannot accommodate practices’ unique workflows, patient populations, or overall styles.
With so many moving parts and existing billing and practice management systems in place, many EHRs — as they were designed — fail to facilitate seamless functionality. They are unable to provide a comprehensive picture of the entire patient experience.
For an optimized EHR, it should really provide the physician with an immediate and quick sense of the patient’s comprehensive medical history. When administrative overhead is kept to a minimum, physicians can devote only their time and effort to providing high-quality care to their patients.
Efficiency in care provision — particularly as the industry moves toward value-based care — requires customized, scalable technology, and some EHRs don’t fit the bill.
Health IT vendors are increasing their influence in the development of technologies that enable tailored and meaningful interactions with patients. EHRs not only provide an individual patient view, but are also able to leverage large amounts of data on treatment plans to help providers navigate optimal care pathways for better outcomes.
The industry needs to think about how EHR technology can effectively use data to benefit the patient. There is still work to be done. Digitization and integration make it feasible.
question Chronic conditions are of particular concern to you. What technologies help providers better deal with chronic conditions?
A. As I saw with my father, the management of chronic conditions is very complex and can be taxing for patients, their families, and providers. It is also very expensive.
The CDC reports that 90% of annual health care costs, totaling $3.8 trillion in the US, are for people with chronic and mental health conditions. And poor patient management contributes to this cost: When conditions aren’t properly managed in a timely manner, larger, more expensive problems emerge later.
For providers striving to provide optimal care in this tight reimbursement environment, efficiency is key. Many offices are struggling to manage the clerical and administrative burden of complex condition management, and burnout is currently high.
EHR technologies that seamlessly integrate with practice management and patient engagement tools enable physicians to consistently deliver high-quality care. When technologies are leveraged to encourage and manage patient involvement in their care, this is evident in their outcomes as patients move toward treatment goals, particularly in relation to lifestyle changes and medication management.
Health IT leaders must continue to invest in technologies that guide effective chronic disease management. While today’s chronic care patients are better off than those of decades ago, the engaged patients of the future will reap the further benefits of smarter, more integrated technologies.