The next wave for EHRs

When a policy initiative as far-reaching as HITECH is introduced into a sector of the economy, it’s understandable if stakeholders get wrapped up in near-term goals.

In our view, though, the more interesting story is often what kind of innovations are coming that are still largely around the bend, so to speak, and thus barely in view.

As this associate chief medical officer of innovation at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital sees it, “the industry is moving away from the first version of the EMR.”   He observes that “the inaugural EMRs are basically computerized versions of paper records that weren’t necessarily designed with usability in mind. So rather than saving time and making administrative processes easier, they’re in some cases adding to doctors’ workloads.”

But help is on the way.  He discusses the need to “start building tools that can fit on top of [current EMRs]. A whole ecosystem is going to build up on top of EMR systems to make them easier and faster to use.”

He points to a company that is making a “touch-based ‘electronic medical assistant,’ as well as another that “is working on a way to help physicians fill canceled appointments that it hopes to integrate with web-based EMRs.”

Finally, he recently co-founded his own company that’s “focused on making the practice of medicine more enjoyable for physicians by letting them focus on the higher-order thinking they’re good at, rather than spending their time on paperwork.”

Ideally, HITECH will be viewed as a major part of the impetus for much of this innovation, but that may rely to a considerable extent on policymakers recognizing when the time has come to step back a bit and let market innovations take over.

In the meantime, we’re curious as to what else might be percolating across the health IT economy, particularly when it comes to improving the usability of EHRs.  So what are you seeing?  What’s the next wave, or the wave beyond that, for EHRs?