June 28, 2012
Electronic medical records technology has been available to physicians for over a decade, but widespread adoption didn’t begin happening until a few years ago. Today, just over half of office-based physicians are using an EMR. As more practices switch to an electronic system of charting, it has become strikingly clear to the healthcare industry what makes an EMR effective, and especially what makes it ineffective.
Government initiatives like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and meaningful use contributed to the explosion of the EMR market. Ten years ago, practices only had to sift through about 40 vendors when deciding on an EMR, but now there are over 700 EMRs and EMR modules to sift through. Unfortunately, a large number of these products provide little, if any, value to the physicians who use them.
Two recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine discuss the effectiveness of health IT, EHRs in particular. One of the studies concludes that EHRs are still too new to be able to prove if they are beneficial or not.
This is true to an extent. Most of the newer EHRs are a complex jumble of practice management and EMR software. They are difficult to use, and they don’t follow a doctor’s logical workflow.
The more experienced EHRs—those that have been in business for many years—tell a completely different story, however. These EHRs have already worked through the kinks of fresh, new designs, are very familiar with what doctors expect in an EHR, and are practiced enough at innovation to still be competitive as technology demands change.
Furthermore, it is crucial that physicians choose an EHR with experience in their specialty. This is the single most effective way to ensure an EHR provides value to a practice. A one-size-fits-all approach to EHR does not work for specialists, but a specialty-specific EHR will adhere to the physician’s unique workflow and even speed up the patient charting process.
The benefits of EHR are more than just marketing speak; they reflect actual experiences. Thousands of practices have eliminated costs and streamlined processes through EHR software. The good EHR vendors are dedicated to keeping open communication with doctors in order to ensure they are providing them with useful technology that will help them practice medicine, better.