Electronic Medical Records: Epic Promise Delivered?

Did we get what we were sold?

Category: EMR Musings

Electronic Medical Records: Epic Promise Delivered?

When President Obama signed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009, many lauded the legislation as a way to finally push the staggering numbers of healthcare providers still documenting on paper onto Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems. However, 6 years after the Act went into effect, many physicians are still struggling with figuring out how to use the systems efficiently and in a way beneficial to them.

The advantages of EMRs are easy to see. Both patients and healthcare providers alike stand to gain from the shift to electronic medical records.

From the patient's perspective, they get:

  • Easier access to their record and communication with their healthcare providers
  • Fewer errors (no incorrect prescriptions because of messy handwriting)
  • Faster care and decision making by medical professionals

For the healthcare providers, they get:

  • Easier methods of transferring data to other healthcare professionals
  • Space saving benefits (no more mountains of paper charts)
  • Increased productivity (more on this later)
  • Better analytics, leading to better medical insights
  • Reduced operational costs

However, despite the potential for all of these advantages, many physicians report that some of the most widely used EMRs (e.g., Epic, MEDITECH, Cerner, athenahealth) are extremely frustrating and difficult to use. Health systems often end up having to hire expensive consultants just to get the system up and running.

One of the biggest reasons for this frustrating is that the tools simply haven't been optimized for the workflows that the various healthcare delivery settings are deployed in.

The HITECH Act created a huge influx of demand for medical record systems. Healthcare organizations rushed to implement their sytems, and didn't take too much time take a step back and consider whether they were designing truly usable EMRs.

As we move into the next phase of EMR implementation (most hospitals have an EMR, and are now looking for ways to unleash their full potential), it's likely that these healthcare organizations will look for ways to make their systems more usable.

Nick Zussman

Nick spent four years working at Epic helping healthcare organizations implement and optimize systems for thousands of physicians

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