The deployment of an electronic health record (EHR) system was an extremely costly but necessary purchase for your health system. Such a large investment ought to have yielded equally large returns, right? Unfortunately for many healthcare organizations, that hasn’t been the case. But there’s an opportunity to realize appreciable financial returns from your EHR that may have eluded you, by connecting the EHR to your digital front door and your provider data management solution.

Consumers are flocking to the internet to absorb digital capabilities, and your healthcare organization must meet them there. Read on to learn how your software solutions can be linked together to unleash the power of your EHR—and extract value from one your biggest investments in the process.

What happened to the ROI? 

You’re in good company if you’re unsure of whether implementation and adoption of your EHR recouped a return on the investment, and if so how long it took. But the fact is that the average EHR spend ranges from $46,000 to $90,000 per provider in the first year alone when factoring in the costs of implementation, training, and supporting technology. Those figures don’t include any revenue lost during the initial go-live, when providers are typically lightly scheduled to accommodate a learning curve. 

For some hospitals and healthcare systems, part of the investment was offset through receipt of a share of the nearly $30 billion in federal funds contained in the 2009 HITECH Act for ONCHIT-certified EHRs deployed. 

But now, we’re seeing health systems spend more capital as they switch to a new EHR vendor to:

  • Appease unhappy providers
  • Gain better system functionality or customer service
  • Lower costs over the long term
  • Enable interoperability
  • And more

Switching vendors makes it more unlikely, for example, that a 1,000-provider system that spent roughly $200 million will recoup the expense of an EHR system. For that system to generate a 30% return—or $260 million in savings over five years—it would require recovering $52 million a year. That would be the equivalent of slashing 500 full-time staff. In short, health systems should not look for this kind of quantum-leap, AI-like technology breakthrough, because several leading EHRs are built on MUMPS, a 50-year-old technology that surely will require improvement. 

Provider data: an avenue of revenue return

While providers master the use of the EHR, your consumer-facing and operations staff are using your provider data platform to manage everything from onboarding clinicians and credentialing, enrolling, and monitoring their performance, to delivering search and scheduling functionality for patients. Provider data includes people, places, and services, and is the linchpin of the healthcare industry. In fact, all necessary processes on which a health system relies begin with provider data. Incomplete or inaccurate data hurts your bottom line, negatively affects compliance, and more importantly, interferes with care coordination. 

As healthcare becomes increasingly consumer driven, your hospital or health system’s ability to gain market share will depend in part on its ability to serve up accurate, consumer-centric provider data that helps patients find the right providers. Think telemedicine during the pandemic and its ongoing ability to connect patients who need to, or prefer to, stay home yet access providers. 

But challenges abound when it comes to efficiently maintaining accurate provider data. Physicians and other clinicians move to a different network or add services at another site in the same system. They retire, leave, or join health plans—or in some cases, lose their license. These statistics from an IDC Health report tell the story:

  • About 2% of provider demographic data changes each month.
  • Some 20-30% of providers change affiliations each year.
  • Roughly 5% of physicians undergo a status change (e.g., retire, die, lose a license, or are sanctioned) annually.

Given these changes, it’s no surprise that the provider data stored in the multiple software solutions that hospitals use to house it is incorrect. A survey of hospital medical staff offices by symplr in May 2021 found that roughly 58% of medical services professionals (55 of 77 people responding) reported using two to five solutions for their job, despite the fact that technology that integrates all provider data is available.

A provider directory software solution, therefore, should serve as the single, central hub for all your provider data. A single, scalable solution enables the curation of high-quality provider data and produces profiles that can be shared across the enterprise and to patient-facing sites, in real-time. Key functionality in a provider directory software solution includes:

  • The ability to curate data: You need the best data available, and putting the power to manage that data into hundreds or thousands of staff hands—crowdsourcing data curation, in effect—is a best practice. For peace of mind, changes to profiles made by staff, and inbound data feeds, should be configurable to be sent to a worklist for further review, to ensure the highest level of data governance and integrity. Collaboration between teams to curate data allows departments across the health system to collectively leverage better provider data.  
  • Real-time provider data updates: Via an integration between your EHR and provider directory software, real-time data updates must be fed to all departments that depend on it. Your existing workflows such as EHR, marketing, and claims are optimized as they are continuously supplied with up-to-date and accurate provider data.  
  • Scalability: The platform should grow with you. As the push to value-based care from fee for service continues unabated, you need a provider directory solution that can expand to meet your needs. Chief among them is the ability to manage provider data for health plans, ACOs, direct to employer, and other networks. This requires a solution that can assign providers to multiple networks, assign specialties and subspecialties based on locations, and maintain updates regarding availability.  
  • Freedom to edit your data: Your data is your own, and you need the ability to make changes in-house and see those changes reflected in real time on internal sites, on patient-facing sites, and in other mission critical systems. Incredibly, not all provider directory solutions allow your users to make changes to your data without incurring costs. The power to modify data in the moment allows for continuous curation, promises better quality data, and removes the need to contact your vendor, which creates delays and wastes resources. 

Provider directory software optimizes EHRs  

There’s another avenue of return from your EHR, which has made a timely appearance in this era of increased competition for providers. Provider consolidation and business models that require payers to align with providers, providers to align with employers, and all parties to assume greater risk under healthcare reform means that keeping patients in-network via digital customer intimacy is needed. In the simplest terms, adding real-time healthcare provider data to your digital front door (e.g., a  consumer-facing website or a mobile application) can put lost value back into your EHR.

Consumers are hungry for digital healthcare experiences that parallel their experiences in digital retail shopping. They want to search for, find, and book the perfect service seamlessly and in minutes, on their timeline. The stage is set, and the timing is essential, to extend the capabilities of your EHR to meet the expectations of your consumers through your digital front door. 

But how exactly is this being done? By exposing real-time provider schedules to patients ready for mobile, online, on-demand scheduling, your provider directory solution—combined with your EHR—can be the missing and final link in achieving the highest levels of patient experience in healthcare. 

Access to complete, accurate, and reliable provider data gives your consumers the online ability to search for and find their provider—one who:

  • Is qualified
  • Has appropriate specialty/subspecialty training and experience
  • Has good reviews
  • Accepts their health plan
  • Is conveniently located
  • Has availability
  • And more

In minutes consumers can self-serve by booking an appointment online, assured that it is a perfect patient-provider match. Only the EHR platforms—and third-party software scheduling vendors—can satisfy the availability part. 

Job one in the process to create open scheduling is for the CIO to begin the necessary dialogue with physician leaders in both primary care and specialties about the need for open scheduling. One symplr customer that opted to make the leap to open scheduling isn’t looking back after achieving the following results:

  • Six percent of its scheduling is now done online directly by patients.
  • They’ve diverted tens of thousands of calls a month from their call centers.
  • Savings are exceeding $5 million a year.
  • Providers are happier because they are busier.
  • Concerns over payer mix have proven unfounded. 

The next chapter in the story of meeting consumer demand for online appointment scheduling is about better provider data. Provider data management is not the province of EHRs—they are purpose-built patient data platforms. But provider data requires a purpose-built solution—and this is where symplr comes in. Learn more about symplr Directory today. 

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