May 2, 2018

Australian hospitals are preoccupied with the substantial task of implementing Electronic Medical Record systems, which are sometimes touted as the answer to all IT challenges.

But amidst long, complex rollouts that chew up resources and budget, there is one area of hospital oversight that is not usually well-served by the EMR. And that’s specialist outpatient clinics.

From an IT perspective, these clinics are the poor cousins to their inpatient counterparts. Often last in line and fragmented in size and voice, these clinics are typically left to their own devices rather than serviced by a proactive IT strategy.

What this results in is the stuff of IT nightmares. Disparate systems. Home-grown databases. Shadow IT.

The outcomes are even scarier. Multiple versions of patient records. No visibility or coordination across clinics. At best, this delivers a frustrating patient experience. At worst, it creates security and privacy vulnerabilities, while wasting precious IT resources on supporting systems that are going nowhere. And not to mention the operational inefficiencies of scheduling and credentialing without proper systems.

Hospitals need to challenge the commonly-held belief that the EMR will ‘cover everything’ and independently assess the level of support (and its financial viability) for outpatient clinics.

The needs of outpatient clinics

Outpatient clinics need frontline systems that are every bit as robust and efficient as their inpatient counterparts. However due to their small size and fragmented buying power, it does not make sense to purchase a separate system for every clinic. Instead, buying power must be consolidated, along with a cohesive IT strategy that puts clinics onto a common technology platform that is easily tailored and adaptive as needs change.

Outpatient clinics need capability that includes:

  • Core functionality that can be modified to the needs of each clinic, such as scheduling, credentialing and referrals
  • Key data integration to provide connectedness and visibility, with systems such as EMR, pathology, radiology, and patient administration
  • Longitudinal care records for patients across multiple clinics, so that care and progress are easily tracked over time
  • The ability to make simple field changes within the clinic, without relying on IT
  • A patient-centric, enterprise-wide view of resource capacity and capability that enables more efficient use of resources and an improved patient experience

Solving the dilemma

The EMR is designed to solve big problems but is rarely suited to the needs of outpatient clinics – both in terms of capability provided, flexibility to service the individual needs of multiple small clinics, and cost-effectiveness where pockets simply aren’t as deep as other departments.

In short, monolithic EMRs are not the answer.

Neither is everyone doing their own thing.

A middle ground is what’s required.

This “middle ground” is a pervasive technology platform that can be used across clinics. One that brings speed, agility and value, with core clinic capabilities provided from the outset that can easily be modified and adapted to individual needs. One that takes robust care of data, security and privacy. One that allows visibility across clinics, with full coordination of appointments, tests and specialist staff. And one that stops renegade systems from mushrooming out of control, by putting outpatient clinics on the IT front foot.

Simient is a frontline solution specialist. With years of experience in the health sector, we work to bridge the technology gap for outpatient clinics. You can find us at the forthcoming eHealth Expo on June 7 in Brisbane.