The EPR alone is not enough to satisfy patient information needs, says software firm

One of the most significant technology investments a healthcare organisation can make is its EPR. But a common misconception is that the EPR will satisfy all patient information needs.

“EPRs are great at capturing discrete structured content, the sort of patient data that can be entered into fixed digital fields. But everything else? Maybe not so much,” explains Saduf Ali-Drakesmith, healthcare manager of international pre-sales at the US-based software firm, Hyland.

Unstructured patient data

According to analysts such as Gartner and IDC, around 80% of information is unstructured and not natively captured or stored in an EPR. This includes historical paper records, third-party clinical documents, diagnostic medical images and more.

For example, while clinicians can access images stored in a picture archiving and communications (PACS) system integrated with the EPR, other medical images, such as endoscopy images and dermatology photos, are stored in isolated system silos.

“This is clinical content scattered across your enterprise,” says Ali-Drakesmith. “Capturing that information and making it available to clinicians is critical,” adds Ali-Drakesmith.

The content challenge EPRs present

Designers did not originally envision that EPRs would manage unstructured data. Despite the amount of unstructured data multiplying over time, it remains disconnected from the EPR. Clinicians have historically struggled to access this information, creating missed patient care opportunities. 

“The goal should be the implementation of a more manageable platform that creates a complete patient record,” argues Ali-Drakesmith. “We want reliable data stored in one place so that our healthcare providers can easily access it and use it to make more informed care decisions, which improve patient outcomes and reduce organisational costs.”

A connected healthcare platform

Creating a connected healthcare platform takes more than just the EPR, according to David Kwo, an EPR consultant and researcher. From Kwo’s perspective, every health system should integrate its EPR with a robust content services platform to make it a more comprehensive source of patient information.

“The best strategy is to have a unified approach to content and information in order to deliver to clinicians a streamlined experience,” insists Kwo.

Content services solutions, such as enterprise content management, can help healthcare organisations consolidate silos and connect them to fill patient information gaps.

Hyland Healthcare’s content services platform, OnBase, is one such platform, which unifies clinical documents, including medical images and photos. The firm also offers a full suite of enterprise imaging solutions designed to consolidate and improve access to all digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) and non-DICOM medical images. By integrating these solutions, doctors can access clinical content from within the EPR.

“We can make unstructured data more meaningful and provide instant access to information for the clinicians who need it,” concludes Ali-Drakesmith.

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