The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic thrust population health management into the spotlight. The pandemic has revealed the fragility of our healthcare systems as large groups of people need simultaneous care. Despite decades of systematic legislation and work to move health records to electronic formats, public health and government organizations continue to face operational difficulties during crises to obtain and utilize crucial organizations' electronic health records (EHRs). Often, organizations must resort to outdated methods, wasting valuable resources that place a burden on healthcare.
Leaders at all levels are focusing on EHR capabilities and healthcare analytics to boost public health outcomes. A Master of Science in Health Administration program can help healthcare professionals use EHR to prepare for a post-COVID world.
What Impact Does EHR Have on Patient Care?
EHRs not only contain information, but they can also compute information. To name only a few examples, EHRs to date help:
- Reduce medical errors
- Increase patient satisfaction
- Increase clinician satisfaction
- Improve care guideline recommendations and adherence
- Streamline prescription services
- Protect sensitive patient information within certain healthcare teams
Hospital systems worldwide use artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, such as sepsis early detection, for high-risk patients. For example, HCA Healthcare uses a technology called S-P-O-T (Sepsis Prediction and Optimization of Therapy) which tracks clinical data points to alert staff to assess for sepsis.
What Are Some of the Challenges of EHRs During the Pandemic?
Unfortunately, most hospitals and skilled care facilities do not currently have application programming interfaces (APIs) with local health departments. As a result, many facility infection prevention teams print EHR information and then fax it to health department colleagues to continue contract tracing work. The health departments then manually enter the same information into their systems, creating backlogs and delaying data analyses.
In addition, the richness of the individual and population health data within the EHRs does not allow organizations to understand the whole patient — such as the patient's comorbidities and social determinants of health — due to the fax "snapshot." Thanks to robust EHR reports, however, some organizations might be able to see disparities in COVID-19 prevalence and outcomes. Still, organizations need to share details and innumerable data points to provide bigger health pictures of a region, state and nation.
Again, this creates challenges and diverts precious resources. The pandemic reminds us that healthcare has made great strides in EHR strategy but remains far from the finish line.
How Will EHRs Shape the Future of Healthcare?
The future of EHRs holds much promise for better patient care and population health. EHRs in their present-state and future-state can and will:
- Identify patients most at risk for readmissions and acute or chronic diseases
- Slice data to determine which zip codes need intensive prevention support services
- Provide predictive modeling for disease surveillance
- Determine disparate patterns of care inequity to assist in intervention development
- Establish previously unidentified health and outcome determinants
Nationally, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is revising the Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems rule. While the rule touches numerous hospital pieces, it significantly focuses on API use and interoperability between healthcare organizations and government organizations. In addition, this federal rule will increase data sharing and maintain the integrity of large data sets for population health management. With "big data," the focus is shifting to "prediction and prevention to public health rather than response and treatment."
The pandemic has only heightened the focus on data sharing, prompting healthcare administrators to improve population health management. However, enhancing population health continues to complicate care designs and payment models, requiring leaders of tomorrow to be more knowledgeable in EHR progress.
A Master of Science (M.S.) in Health Administration program can inform emerging healthcare leaders' understanding of the intricate health landscape, propelling them in a lucrative service field. No matter the level of healthcare leaders' expertise, an advanced degree in health administration can serve as skill boosters to positively impact communities nationwide in a digitized world.
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