Males Can’t Get Pregnant

January 10, 2018

Legacy software and the broader implications of obvious statements

Can a male get pregnant? Can a child have prior military service?

We know the answers to these questions even before the patient walks through the door, so why does our software ask? These examples might be light hearted, but they represent a significant problem in EHR technology. And it has less to do with frivolous questions, and everything to do with greater underlying issues in software.

Old foundations, old paradigms

Most EHR software today is built on foundations that were laid more than a decade ago. Software design of the time took a hard-coded approach, meaning a team of engineers would write lines of code in order to make the product behave a certain way, but in doing so made it very difficult to change. The inherent limitations of this method meant that for most developers it was more feasible to add code to an existing product than to revise the foundation on which it lay, whenever a new feature was created or a new requirement satisfied.

After years of applying this bolt-on approach, the behavioral health industry is ultimately left with an abundance of solutions that are overbuilt, redundant, cumbersome, and very demanding of computing resources. For example, how many checkboxes or text fields of today’s EHR technology satisfy workflow or compliance requirements that are no longer relevant, and how much time do clinicians and staff spend wading through them all? For the same reason the human body still has an appendix, legacy software carries with it the indelible stamp of its origins.

Extra noise

It is worth considering how an organization’s bottom line is affected if clinicians and office staff are spending twenty minutes on a task that could feasibly take five. Also consider what kind of impact a clerical error costs in point of time and resources. Workflow inefficiency is a common problem that causes organizations to hemorrhage money, as clinicians and office staff are bearing the brunt of workflow logic in EHR technology today.

But good workflow logic isn’t simply about removing silly questions about a man’s pregnancy status; it is about removing anything and everything non-pertinent to the user’s specific needs. If a patient is insured through Regence, for example, a lot of industry-standard billing questions can be outright skipped. Giving users only what they need for their role-specific workflows maximizes task completion efficiency, and brings value to the organization by reducing training time, mitigating user frustration and employee churn, increasing work output, and limiting clerical error and claim rejection.

Response to change

The heart of the problem with legacy software is its inability to change quickly. This is particularly challenging for the healthcare industry, which is in an almost constant state of transition. Organizations must do their best to respond to new requirements, but because of the hard-coded nature of legacy software and the lengthy development cycle it entails, organizations struggle to stay current. Quite often, organizations rely on workarounds to fill compliance gaps, driven primarily by manual effort.

To learn more about the consequences of inadequate change management, read our white paper.

The new standard: configuration

Modern consumer applications have realized success by reimagining the best approach to software development. Configuration, or the idea that the functionality of software can be designed to change at the administrative level without requiring the support of an engineering team, is taking the place of the customized software approach of the yesteryear. This philosophy lends itself incredibly well to industries as thoroughly regulated and nuanced as health care.

So many of the behavioral healthcare industry’s problems stem from outdated technology. The fact that software asks male patients if they’re pregnant is not only indicative of the product’s age, there is likely a host of other areas in which it is falling short for the organization.

Ready to find out what configuration can do for your organization? Click the button below to talk to a Valant representative!

Last Updated: January 19, 2018