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Data-driven optimization helps Northern Light Health save an estimated $1.3 million annually

by Northern Light Health

Published on 11/6/2019

As demands on physicians grow, burnout rates also can increase. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found more than 65% of physicians experience burnout.1

Aiming to create a better experience for physicians at the 1,100 bed, Brewer, Maine-based Northern Light Health (NLH), Cerner Continuous Improvement associates engaged to increase Dynamic Documentation™ adoption, with the goal of increasing provider efficiency, improving satisfaction with their electronic health record and streamlining the discharge process.

"As an electronic medical record (EMR), I think that Cerner is more user-friendly than what we had before," said Mahmuda Ahmed, MD, pediatric endocrinology.

"I really like the integration with other programs including being up-to-date," said Scott Clough, MD, pediatrics.

Continuous Improvement associates worked with NLH physician champions to tailor the specialty-specific workflow views and documentation templates from Cerner's Model Experience. NLH physicians were trained on the technology changes, including Dynamic Documentation — a solution that pulls patient data from the electronic health record into provider notes so the provider can efficiently create documentation without duplicative entry or transcription delays. This targeted education drove Dynamic Documentation usage, which in turn in over three months helped the health system save $343,066 it would otherwise have spent in transcription notes for the 351 providers.2 Extrapolated over the course of a year, NLH saves an estimated $1,372,264 annually.3

The specialty-specific views and targeted training also led to a 6% decrease in actual chart review time per patient for the 351 providers.4

"I find that I'm able to spend a good amount of time with my patients talking and examining," said Clough. "I'm still able to complete my notes in a timely fashion."

"We no longer need to rely on the patient's memory to provide information about previous care," said John Campbell, MD, psychiatry. "Patients only need to say something once. We store the information and it's always readily available."

Engagement between Continuous Improvement and NLH associates helped improve quality of care, including a 122% increase in the percentage of discharge notes signed before patient discharge in a separate project that went live in October 2018.5 Having visit notes ready before the patient leaves the hospital helps with care coordination — if the patient readmits or presents to an urgent care facility, clinicians can see the patient's immediate history and provide better care.

"The EMR is a substantial investment by Northern Light Health to support efficient operations and safe care," said Campbell. "It demonstrates our commitment to ensure we have full access to the latest technology and the system-wide conversion to Cerner as the sole EMR is a remarkable achievement."

1 Rotenstein, MD, MBA, Lisa S.; Torre, MD, Matthew; Ramos, MD, PhD, Marco; et al, "Prevalence of Burnout Among Physicians: A Systematic Review," Sept. 18, 2018,

2 Comparing $914,280 spent from March-May 2018 to $571,214 from September-November 2018

3 Comparing $914,280 (March-May 2018) to $571,214 (September-November 2018) and multiplying the $343,066 savings by four

4 Comparing 20 minutes, 57 seconds (March-May 2018) to 19 minutes, 42 seconds (September-November 2018)

5 All physicians' notes; comparing 28.5% (March-May 2018) to 63.4% (October-December 2018)

Client outcomes were achieved in respective settings and are not representative of benefits realized by all clients due to many variables, including solution scope, client capabilities and business and implementation models.