Pamela Tobias Outlines Using Data in EHRs and Data That Go Underutilized

It’s really important to take advantage of the data in an electronic health record (EHR) system, but sometimes people don’t know what information is being captured behind the scenes, said Pamela Tobias, MS, RHIA, CHDA, administrator of oncology services at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

How can data from electronic health records be used to identify areas of improvement that can ultimately reduce costs?
One of the things that I think is really a powerful tool within EHRs, is some of the risk-scoring systems that they have. There are standardized tools that can look at things like risk for sepsis, risk for morbidity and mortality, risk for deep vein thrombosis. All of those let us intervene ahead of time, based on patient’s variables that something is impending rather than trying to respond to something that has actually happened. When we find things or can avoid things that’s certainly much less costly than trying to fix something that’s happened after the fact. 

What sorts of inefficiencies might you find in hospitals that aren’t using their EHRs efficiently?
It’s really important to take advantage of the data that’s in your system. Looking at things like throughput, turnover, capacity, in addition to the quality and outcomes is really important. So, if you’re not utilizing it for those needs, then you’re missing an opportunity to make some great improvements. We’ve had the opportunity to utilize some data analytics as it relates to infusion throughput and capacity, and it’s been really eye opening—for as much as the Lean methodologies that we’ve tried to employ to make things better on our own, we truly needed the data analytics component to help us take things really to the next level and then ensure that they are hardwired into the process. And then keep an eye on it going forward.

What data in an EHR do you believe goes underutilized?
I think we’re most comfortable utilizing financial data from EHRs. I think we’re less comfortable utilizing the quality data because it’s harder to get at. We typically have to have a program or report writer to pull it out for us. I think sometimes we don’t know what information might be captured behind the scenes on throughput. Things like check in times, check out times, when a medication comes up or comes down, room turnover times. Some of that information is already in our EHRs and we just need to know to go after it.
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