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Cerner Millennium's Care Pathways for Specialty Care Referrals: Provider and Nurse Experiences, Perceptions, and Recommendations for Improvements.

Cordasco KM, Gable AR, Ganz DA, Brunner JW, Smith AJ, Hertz B, Post EP, Fix GM. Cerner Millennium's Care Pathways for Specialty Care Referrals: Provider and Nurse Experiences, Perceptions, and Recommendations for Improvements. Journal of general internal medicine. 2023 Oct 5.

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BACKGROUND: Using structured templates to guide providers in communicating key information in electronic referrals is an evidence-based practice for improving care quality. To facilitate referrals in Veterans Health Administration's (VA) Cerner Millennium electronic health record, VA and Cerner have created "Care Pathways"-templated electronic forms, capturing needed information and prompting ordering of appropriate pre-referral tests. OBJECTIVE: To inform their iterative improvement, we sought to elicit experiences, perceptions, and recommendations regarding Care Pathways from frontline clinicians and staff in the first VA site to deploy Cerner Millennium. DESIGN: Qualitative interviews, conducted 12-20 months after Cerner Millennium deployment. PARTICIPANTS: We conducted interviews with primary care providers, primary care registered nurses, and specialty providers requesting and/or receiving referrals. APPROACH: We used rapid qualitative analysis. Two researchers independently summarized interview transcripts with bullet points; summaries were merged by consensus. Constant comparison was used to sort bullet points into themes. A matrix was used to view bullet points by theme and participant. RESULTS: Some interviewees liked aspects of the Care Pathways, expressing appreciation of their premise and logic. However, interviewees commonly expressed frustration with their poor usability across multiple attributes. Care Pathways were reported as being inefficient; lacking simplicity, naturalness, consistency, and effective use of language; imposing an unacceptable cognitive load; and not employing forgiveness and feedback for errors. Specialists reported not receiving the information needed for referral triaging. CONCLUSIONS: Cerner Millennium's Care Pathways, and their associated organizational policies and processes, need substantial revision across several usability attributes. Problems with design and technical limitations are compounding challenges in using standardized templates nationally, across VA sites having diverse organizational and contextual characteristics. VA is actively working to make improvements; however, significant additional investments are needed for Care Pathways to achieve their intended purpose of optimizing specialty care referrals for Veterans.

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