Posted By Ashok Mathur On February 21, 2017

A Balancing Act for Public Health Departments. Here are three things you should focus on.

Public Health EHR

Achieving Maximum Productivity and Performance: A Balancing Act for Public Health Departments. Here are three things you should focus on.


There are three legs of a stool that every business, practice or department must balance to achieve maximum productivity and performance. Those are Product, Process and People. Balancing and optimally using all three legs of  this stool makes everyone’s life easier. For public health departments or community health centers, it is no different.



First, let us look at the software product. Health departments have been using a myriad of tools such as paper clinical forms, folders, Outlook for appointments, Excel sheets (for tracking medications or inventory), multiple in-house databases, logging into various payers (Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield), submitting paper or electronic claims, logging into various state systems such as immunization registries or communicable disease registries etc. Not having just one system or “Product” makes it very difficult for health departments or community health centers to gather data, let alone achieve any efficiencies.


With numerous budget and grant cuts, like all businesses, local health departments are forced to look for software to streamline operations. A large number of local health departments are adopting or switching to a public health-focused Electronic Health Record (EHR). EHRs have become the product lifeline of the internal workflow for clinical staff as they improve workflow. The right Product (EHR) can provide a platform to streamline workflow and provide the much needed foundation to improve “balance” at the workplace. In order to protect patient privacy, EHR technology must be federally certified to meet meaningful use requirements. It must pass Meaningful Use (MU) security and privacy rules. The system should have security protocols to protect patient data and have strict guidelines for auditing as defined by MU. Finally, it should also reliably help with the Processes that the People must follow.



Every health department has policies and procedures that are aligned with their goals for the communities they serve and the services they provide. Processes are put in place for maximum efficiency of the department and compliance is important in order to achieve established goals. An EHR can help with every Process from patient check-in all the way through to billing, as well as population health issues, such as outbreaks. But don’t be fooled into thinking an EHR can fix everything. It is an excellent tool that can go far beyond how most people or organizations will use it, but it is only as good as its weakest user. Which brings me to the People!



An EHR is nothing if it isn’t for the People using it. It must be easy-to-use. As one implements an EHR, make sure that the vendor provides each and every user hands-on training. Prior to training, you may wish to assess each user’s computer skill levels. Some people may need some baseline computer training prior to EHR training. Users need proper training and skills, sure, but just as important, they must be held accountable for the Process and also for adoption of the EHR. Change is never easy for some People and so it is critical for management to enforce departmental Processes from the top down. When adopting a new Product, this may mean refining their culture.


Adopting a new EHR is a big change. People can often be reluctant to change, so it is critical to engage leaders and supervisors, and to find champions of the Product to help drive the rollout and, therefore, the success of a new EHR. Go ahead and take advantage of public health focused EHR and take your organization to the next level.

About Ashok Mathur

Ashok is passionate about public health. He works collaboratively with public health departments, sharing his insights on the benefits of app technology and cloud services for EHR use. He is the CEO and co-founder of Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.