There is no denying that the usability of current EHRs sucks. More pointedly, the data entry is really excruciating. Blogs have been devoted to the rants, articles have been written. In fact, the problem is so real that entrenched luddites have spawned a cottage industry of ‘Medical Scribes‘ – hired hands who do nothing but take physician’s narrative and punch the keys on the keyboard to get it in the dang EHR. Regrettably, industry behemoth AMA‘s position seems to be that of fascinated enthusiasm, as noted in this article. So instead of either training clinicians better or mounting pressure on vendors to create better user interface, we are contributing to the mindless expansion of peripheral careers that add cost to the overall system.

Perhaps the solution is, as noted in this THCB post, “ sprinkle some kind of pixie dust on the EHR” to make the data entry work.  Tonic Health is a data collection management platform that can created user-friendly screens that are easy to interact with. The collection templates or forms can be customized, and made intelligent based on rules. Note that the offering is tailored for patient engagement only, not for clinician’s data entry. The screenshots look like it may have an element of gaming at some places.

Like everywhere else in healthcare IT, there is competition in data entry solutions. Most of it focuses on physician data entry woes, and has some speech recognition and NLP technology at it’s core. Prominent examples are Health Fidelity (based on Columbia’s MedLEE engine), Medicomp, MD-IT, etc. Another interesting overlap is with proprietary patient engagement tablet maker Phreesia. Seems like Tonic Health on iPad is going to eat into Phreesia’s value proposition.

Patient data entry or clinician’s, the Achilles heel is whether data gets back into the local incumbent- the ugly EHR. What matters is the back-end integration with EHR vendors, without which the data is trapped in yet another silo, non-actionable. I’d be a much bigger fan (and believer) if Tonic Health had info on EHR Partners front and center on their website. Also, if/once those inroads are made, why not move into solving data entry grievances for clinicians… that may be a more viable business model.