Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to Kansas City for the annual Cerner Health Conference, which brings together health IT experts, case managers, hospital executives and plenty of other healthcare leaders to learn about the latest advances in the Cerner EHR environment.
I relish this chance to talk to customers who use our software in their hospitals. It was an invaluable opportunity to learn how discharge specialists and post-acute care providers use the Ensocare suite of software solutions in their day-to-day workflows. I always appreciate the people who open up about the “hacks” they use to make patient discharge and management even more efficient, and I never cease to be amazed by the ingenuity and dedication healthcare workers bring to their jobs.
One thing that popped up in multiple conversations was the concept of embedded software. The Ensocare Transition app is embedded directly within Cerner Acute Case Management. But what’s somewhat surprising is that many of Cerner’s customers, and in turn our own customers, don’t necessarily realize they’re using the Ensocare app.
There’s a degree of uncertainty around the concept of an embedded software solution. In this post, I want to clear up what it means for an app to be embedded within an EHR. I’ll also explore why many Cerner users may end up using the Ensocare app without realizing they’re doing so.
Integrated Vs. Embedded Apps
To understand the concept of an embedded software solution, it helps to compare it to another type of solution: an integrated solution.
If an app is integrated with your EHR, that means data can be transmitted seamlessly between the two systems. The app plugs directly into the EHR, creating an interoperable experience in which nothing is lost in the transmission of information between two systems.
A good example of an integrated software relationship is in the way Ensocare interacts with Epic. The tools work in connection with one another to ensure patient records within the Epic EHR system can be transmitted directly to the Ensocare Transition app, enabling you to provide accurate patient history to your network of post-acute care providers. Once a post-acute destination has been selected and confirmed, the record is transmitted back to the Epic system to ensure the patient records are updated accordingly.
This is a perfect example of an integrated app. The two systems, while separate from one another, are interoperable, swapping information so that no pertinent detail is left out and the tools work in conjunction with one another.
This is slightly different from an embedded app. Ensocare is embedded within Cerner Acute Case Management, which means it’s an existing part of the tool, not separate from it. You access Ensocare from the Acute Case Management program.
Think of it like your Smartphone. When you boot up your phone for the first time, you have an array of apps already included on the phone: messaging, camera, maps, email, etc. These would be considered your “embedded” apps. But then you can go to the App store and add additional apps depending on your needs. Now, even though these apps are separate from those which came pre-loaded, they nevertheless function seamlessly within the phone. These are your integrated apps.
If Cerner were a phone, Ensocare would be one of the apps already available, just waiting to be activated to meet your needs. If Epic and other EHR systems were a phone, you would need to navigate to the App store and add the Ensocare app; sure, there’s one more step in the process, but once Ensocare is there, it will still work seamlessly with the EHR as if it had been there from the beginning.
Long story short: If an app is embedded, as we are with Cerner, then from day one you can immediately start using the app without any further tinkering (if, that is, you sign up for the service). The systems are working off the same sets of data and all pertinent patient records are immediately updated within the system. If the app is not embedded but is instead integrated, as we are with Epic, you can purchase it as an add-on that works seamlessly with the system in place.
If Ensocare is Embedded Within Cerner, Why Can’t I See It?
This is an excellent question, and it’s one I fielded more than a few times while at the Cerner Health Conference.
The reason Ensocare users may not even realize they’re using the product is because it goes by a different name within the Cerner Acute Case Management program. In this system, you can find Ensocare under the name “Cerner Post Acute Referrals.”
I’ve seen a lot of jaws drop when I tell them that “Cerner Post Acute Referrals” is powered by Ensocare, as they suddenly realize they’ve been using our software for years. Even though we’re heavily involved with onboarding, ongoing training and customer support, it still may not register with folks that Ensocare is behind this useful tool they lean on for discharge every single day.
In this case, “Cerner Post Acute Referrals” is the term given to the embedded Ensocare solution. It’s precisely because we’re embedded and fully functioning within the Cerner ecosystem that it makes sense to brand under the Cerner name. So if you’re a case manager, even though you may not be able to see the term “Ensocare” on a regular basis as you transition your patients to the proper post-acute environment, you’re using an embedded version of the app that drives our core business.
Knowledge Is Power
Our partnership with Cerner continues to grow, and I’m thrilled that Ensocare continues to be a part of the Cerner ecosystem and the annual Cerner Health Conference.
I hope you’ve found this quick lesson on embedded solutions versus integrated solutions helpful. If you have any more questions or want more information on how embedded or integrated apps can help streamline your discharge or care management processes, please don’t hesitate to reach out.