Skip to main content
Skip to footer

It's time for a new kind of electronic health record

Estimated read time: 10 minutes

by John Glaser

Published on 6/29/2020

Originally published by the Harvard Business Review on June 12, John Glaser, retired Cerner executive, explains the role COVID-19 has played in highlighting the need for the electronic health record (EHR) to evolve from simply providing a patient's medical history to becoming a patient's plan for health. He also discusses why the EHR must go beyond supporting clinical transactions to supply patients and clinicians with actionable information for better outcomes. Cerner aligns with John’s points and is proudly on the journey to enhance provider and patient experiences, starting with the EHR.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents the U.S. health care system with a mind-boggling array of challenges. One of the most urgent is coping with a simultaneous glut and dearth of information. Between tracking outbreaks, staying abreast of the latest information on effective treatments and vaccine development, keeping tabs on how each patient is doing, and recognizing and documenting a seemingly endless stream of weird new symptoms, the entire medical community is being chronically overwhelmed.

Sorting through large amounts of information and finding the nuggets that apply to a particular patient’s situation is something that computers ought to be good at. But we still have problems of knowing what data is important and what is the right treatment and prevention plan for each patient.

During the Obama administration, the federal government supplied billions of dollars — and providers kicked in billions more — to speed the adoption of electronic health records. But even though up to 96% of hospitals and 86% of physician offices have adopted them, we still don’t have EHRs that can rise to the information challenges that clinicians face every day, let alone those posed by COVID-19.

Providers still encounter continual frustration on many levels: user interfaces and usability issues, the quality of the data entered, the limited ability of the data to support discovery and interoperability among systems, just to name a few. These limitations have compounded the ability of clinicians to deliver care during the COVID-19 crisis.

An overhaul of the electronic health record is overdue. It must go beyond fixing the user interface or improving interoperability. It must address the fundamental problems exposed by the pandemic. The overhaul must also support the ability of providers to adopt the new value-based-care business model of health care — one that rewards providers for outcomes rather than the volume of services and that shifts their focus from reactive sick care to the proactive management of health.

To address these needs, the electronic health record must transition from an emphasis on a person’s medical record to an emphasis on a person’s plan for health and from a focus on supporting clinical transactions to a focus on delivering information to the provider and the patient.


At Cerner, we believe that health care is too important to stay the same. Learn more here.