As entities increasingly lean on technology to drive improvements, it becomes imperative for HIM Directors to be able to articulate why their projects should be high on the IT resource priority list.
Consider digital release of information (ROI). We’re talking about enabling patients and others to request protected health information using electronic means and for those requests to be securely fulfilled – automatically in many cases. This is different from a patient portal where limited information is readily available for download.
It all starts with the ask. If HIM directors don’t ask for IT time to implement digital ROI, they won’t get it. Instead, they’ll likely be stuck using manual, time-consuming, and unsustainable ROI workflows for the foreseeable future. Admittedly, HIM directors must compete with countless other managers enterprise-wide, each of whom may have an equally viable reason for why their project deserves higher priority.
Here’s the secret, though.
If HIM directors can quantify the impact of digital ROI and present a ‘what’s in it for us?’ argument, they have a strong chance of moving to the top of IT’s to-do list.
Here are three talking points to consider for making digital ROI an easy sell to any IT department:
Consolidating access to the EHR may mean fewer health IT-related breaches. Security breaches continue to put an incredible strain on today’s IT departments, and it has only gotten worse since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, some studies cite a 51% increase in healthcare security breaches compared to 2019. Still, everyone wants access to the EHR in the age of big data, and for good reasons: To process claims, coordinate care, manage population health, and more. However, the more access an organization provides to its EHR, the more likely a breach is to occur. More users often equate to more opportunities for successful malware attacks, or phishing emails, for example.
Here’s one argument HIM directors can use to secure IT resources: Bidirectional application program interfaces (API), on which digital ROI relies, enable consolidated access, thereby decreasing the likelihood of a security breach. For example, instead of providing five different payers with five unique logins to access the EHR—or letting payers use their own customized solutions for on-demand access—healthcare organizations can implement a bidirectional API through which all payers submit requests for specific information.
A bidirectional API retrieves data from the EHR while also simultaneously updating it with authorization and request letters in real-time. APIs are a highly secure industry standard for information exchange. They’re also a welcomed alternative to HL7-type interfaces and other types of legacy system connections that require custom-built interfaces and dozens of hours to implement.
Improving patient satisfaction doesn’t actually require a big ‘IT lift.’ One recent survey found that 90% of patients no longer feel obligated to stay with healthcare providers that don’t deliver an overall satisfactory digital experience. While there are plenty of health IT solutions that impress and engage patients, digital ROI is one of the few that requires minimal IT time while yielding maximum patient satisfaction benefits.
Where is the bulk of IT time spent when implementing digital ROI? It is spent on setting up the initial API to integrate with your health system’s EMR. The result? Patients simply click on a secure link they receive directly on their phone or other device, and they can request their records with ease. Asking patients to print, complete, scan, or mail a medical record request is burdensome and frustrating, particularly when you consider that only 62% of Americans own a printer, and that number is declining rapidly. Far fewer own a fax machine. The more hoops through which patients must jump to request their records, the less likely they’ll request them. With this comes fewer opportunities to help patients follow through with referrals, take medications as prescribed, and more. Healthcare organizations should provide a patient-centric approach when it comes to requesting, fulfilling, and delivering medical records. Having a digital ROI process to increase ease and reduce turnaround times makes that possible.
Automation helps ensure business continuity. Let’s face it. Working in health IT is tough. When systems work smoothly, IT doesn’t necessarily get the credit it deserves. However, when things go wrong, IT staff often take the brunt of the blame—even when circumstances are beyond their control.
For example, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Web site includes countless examples of providers slapped with hefty fines for not providing patients with timely access to their medical records. It may be easy to point the finger at IT; however, a lack of timely access could be due to staffing shortages or a whole host of other reasons. With the Great Resignation well underway, HIM departments are certainly not immune to frequent staff turnover that results in slower-than-ideal response times. Pandemics and natural disasters can also affect an organization’s ability to fulfill requests in a timely manner. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service recently announced that deliveries after October 1, 2021 will be slower than usual, making it even more important for organizations using manual ROI processes to stay on top of timely ROI fulfillments.
To avoid the blame game, IT must collaborate with HIM to identify solutions that automate straightforward workflows to help ensure business continuity during times of uncertainty. Digital ROI is one of these solutions. With a digital process, patients have timely access to their own health information as well as greater visibility into the status of every single request at any time. This is regardless of any staffing shortages the organization may be experiencing. In addition, as long as health IT systems remain up and running, digital ROI workflows remain active even if ROI staff are unable to access the system during public health emergencies.
Although digital ROI directly benefits the HIM department, there are IT-related benefits as well. Conveying the value of digital ROI helps HIM directors gain IT resources necessary to launch the effort.