Guide to Top Software Programs for Healthcare Administrators (2020)

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In today’s world, businesses run on software. Healthcare is no exception. Over the last two decades, healthcare organizations have increasingly relied upon high-tech software platforms to optimize, consolidate, and analyze their operations. According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), these software solutions improve patient care, increase patient participation, and lower overall expenses.

Healthcare is a machine made up of several different parts, and that’s reflected in the many different types of software that exist within the industry: electronic health records (EHRs), customer relationship management (CRM) systems, hospital management systems (HMS), revenue cycle management (RCM) systems, and medical practice management (MPM) systems are practically ubiquitous. Oftentimes, some or all of these features will be wrapped up under the umbrella of a large software platform that can be used by both small-sized clinics and 500-bed hospitals.

If you’re going to work as a healthcare administrator, you will almost certainly be working with some type of healthcare software platform. While each organization will need to pick a vendor that matches their own particular needs, there are a handful of major industry players that aspiring healthcare administrators would be well-advised to familiarize themselves with early on.

If you want to get a look at the biggest, best, and most powerful software platforms for healthcare administrators, read on.

Epic

Founded in 1979, Epic has come a long way from its inauspicious beginnings. Today, hospitals using Epic’s software hold medical records for over half of all patients in the United States, and over 250 million patients across the globe have a record on the Epic platform. Rated as the overall number one healthcare software suite in KLAS Research, Epic is primarily known for its EHR system, but it branches into everything from managed care, to revenue cycle, to regulatory compliance.

With Epic’s patient portal, MyChart, patients can access their personal and family health information from their home. It also allows them to message their doctors, schedule appointments, and engage in telehealth sessions. MyChart is a win-win: patients can become more actively engaged in their own health, and the time saved by filling out questionnaires via app can make clinics and hospitals more streamlined.

Epic’s AI and analytics division allows healthcare administrators to get quick answers to complex questions by combining clinical, financial, and operational data into a single data warehouse. From there, advanced machine learning algorithms can be embedded at the point of care, or the data can be churned through the cloud-based platform of one’s choice. Healthcare administrators can build their own dashboards, and measure themselves against benchmarks based on the global Epic community.

Despite their large market share, Epic is committed to interoperability: its records are easily exchanged with any organization that abides by international standards, and over 100 million Epic medical records were exchanged in February 2020.

Cerner

Cerner is another 40-year veteran of healthcare IT. Its healthcare solutions are offered primarily through the unified Cerner Millennium framework—an EHR system which includes clinical, financial, and management modules. It allows secure access to patient health records at the point of care. In 2018, Cerner secured a $10 billion EHR contract with the US Department of Veteran Affairs, which included shifting 147 acute care and 20 specialty hospitals over to Cerner Millennium.

Chart Assist, Cerner’s new AI-enabled workflow system, joins a suite of other AI-enabled solutions that attempt to go beyond mere processing and help identify inconsistencies and gaps in patient records. These advancements aim to validate diagnoses, reduce physician burnout, and support the overall financial strength of a healthcare organization.

Cerner’s revenue cycle management (RCM) system helps optimize workflows and control costs through an overarching framework that applies in billing, case management, patient access, and practice management. Black Book ranks Cerner’s RCM outsourcing as number one for physician practice managed services. It also won the KLAS Most Improved Physician Practice Software award for its PowerChart program.

Allscripts

Allscripts Health Solutions provides EHR, population health, patient access, and revenue cycle management services to healthcare organizations of all sizes. They currently have over 20 million connected customers across more than 2,500 hospitals and 24,000 physician practices. Allscripts solutions extend to e-prescription, reimbursement, interoperability, and practice analytics.

FollowMyHealth is Allscripts’ mobile-first patient engagement solution. Designed for the ambulatory and acute care environments, this customizable platform creates an experience where patients can participate in their care from their own handheld devices. In 2019, Allscripts announced a collaboration with Microsoft’s HealthVault, in which all members of HealthVault were able to transfer over to the FollowMyHealth platform, where they could access their data on iOS and Android.

In 2018, Black Book ranked Allscripts as the best integrated EHR platform. And, based on an analysis of the ambulatory revenue cycle management (RCM) market in the US, Frost & Sullivan named Allscripts as company of the year for 2019.

Athenahealth

Founded in 1997, Athenahealth is much younger than the other major software platforms for healthcare administrators. Their business in internet-based healthcare was founded on the principle of letting doctors be doctors by removing unnecessary and burdensome paperwork from practice workflows. As a younger company, they’ve been quick to offer modern features like cloud-based capabilities and browser-agnostic dashboards. Today, Athenahealth is used by over 160,000 medical providers and 106 million patients.

Athenahealth is a universal software platform for a health organization, with an EHR system, billing modules, patient engagement features, care coordination services, and population health functions.

Of particular note is their Epocrates app, rated as the top medical app in the US. Epocrates provides medical decision support at the point of care and in the moment of care. So far, over a million healthcare professionals have used Epocrates to uncover potentially harmful prescription interactions, consult evidence-based diagnostic and disease guidance, and run risk assessments. Based on a 2018 survey, 84 percent of physicians using Epocrates reported that they’d changed a prescription decision after reviewing content from the app.

In 2019, Athenahealth was combined with Virence Health (a spinoff of GE Healthcare), giving it an enormous boost of additional resources, customers, and technology. In 2020, Athenahealth was ranked first by KLAS for its small practice ambulatory EHR system, and first for its ambulatory RCM services.

IBM Watson Health

IBM Watson Health isn’t an EHR, but it might be the future for healthcare. Watson Health allows healthcare administrators to improve their facility and staff performance by leveraging clinical data and AI-powered analytics. Solutions range from insights on operational support, to boosted decision-making at the point of care, to patient-empowerment systems that encourage engagement. To date, IBM Watson Health has helped prevent medical error and improve clinical care while reducing operational costs.

One key area where Watson Health is changing the industry is in medical imaging data. As healthcare organizations have grown in size and complexity, so has their technology, and the result is medical imaging data that’s scattered across different formats and different devices. That’s created a challenge in accessing a complete patient record. But Watson Health’s enterprise imaging system optimizes radiology workflows, reducing administrative busywork and increasing efficiency. The next step? AI-assisted image analysis.

CareDiscovery, an analytical tool that compares a user’s data against Watson Health’s benchmarking system, brings a granular lens to a variety of healthcare metrics like length of stay, mortality, and readmissions. DeKalb Medical, a 627-bed non-profit health system, utilized those analytics to reduce health complications by 58 percent, save 55 lives, and reduce costs by $12 million over three years.

More healthcare facilities will follow in their steps, contributing a wider set of data to the overall pool. AI may soon be an integral part of any healthcare software platform.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog
Writer

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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