Electronic Health Records are here to stay, and for good reason. Without a doubt, EHR processes and technologies:

  • Improve patient care
  • Increase patient participation
  • Improve care coordination
  • Improve diagnostics and patient outcomes
  • Reduce errors
  • Enhance insurance claim processing

As with any complex system, however, unintended consequences abound. Many, unfortunately, that have a negative impact on “medical practice efficiencies.”
The cold, hard fact about any complex system - EHR included - is that optimizing the whole system inevitably and relentlessly results in sub-optimizing many of the parts of the system. Heed well the notice shown below. There are way too many similar signs posted in medical offices throughout the country.

b2ap3 thumbnail EHR Visual

The negative impact of EHR systems on patient flow efficiencies is oh so familiar…but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Seasoned practitioners of Lean Management know how to deal with the “optimizing the whole, sub-optimizing the parts” conundrum. They remain focused on the whole, of course. The whole, after all, is the only path to achieving the fundamental purpose of EHR. That does not mean, however, that tuning the parts can or should be ignored. Opportunities for relatively simple additions to or tweaks of complex systems to offset unintended negative consequences are plentiful.

As for many issues addressed with Lean thinking, visual cues for the people involved with the process can have a huge impact on productivity. It boils down to saving steps and reducing the work flow interruptions and distractions that disrupt a healthcare professional’s concentration. In the case of an EHR, a light signaling system can be integrated in a straightforward way to offset the sub-optimized patient flow part of the system. Voila! Another piece of the “medical practice efficiencies” promised by EHR returns with a vengeance!

So bottom line, yes you need an EHR and yes you need to methodically tune each of the components of that system with Lean thinking.

Check out this video perspective on Lean Patient Flow.