February 21, 2012
If you were to design your perfect EHR, it is unlikely that it would be exactly like your colleague’s ideal EHR. In reality, it is doubtful that there exists a perfect EHR for any one doctor, one that takes into account their unique charting style, system preferences, exchange needs, and ease of use perfectly.
That is not to say that there aren’t good EHR solutions out there, however. Many vendors regularly solicit physician input to ensure that they are delivering useful products to their customers. Many specialty-specific vendors have arisen this way, giving specialists greater control over how to use technology to their benefit.
But it isn’t entirely up to the vendor to make sure a doctor likes her EHR. In most cases, the physicians who are happiest with their electronic health records solution are the ones who (1) take time to learn the system fully and (2) take full advantage of the EHR’s capabilities, from learning common shortcuts to customizing the software to fit their unique workflow more appropriately. If you picked an EHR vendor with experience in your specialty, the learning curve is steeper than if you are trying to make a primary-care EHR work for your orthopedic practice. Many functions will already be customized for you and it will be easier to master the software.
Whichever EHR you choose it’s a good idea to set aside training time before going live to make sure you know how to do the little things that must be done every day. Once you are comfortable with the system, focus more on learning those shortcuts and employing other time-saving techniques. Many EHRs are customizable, so find out what you can adjust to better satisfy your needs. Trade techniques and tips with your colleagues online or during meetings. Most importantly, recognize that EHRs aren’t supposed to address every problem you may encounter throughout the day; you will be disappointed if you base your EHR satisfaction on unrealistic expectations.
An EHR can, however, make your job easier and make you a better doctor. It allows you do document your notes faster (in as little as 90 seconds), records and accelerates orders, prescriptions, and referral replies, gives you more timely and convenient access to medical records, and reduces cost of the paper in your office. An EHR can also improve your life outside the office: it will allow you to go home sooner and have more time for the other things you love to do. And remember that, just as with other areas of your life, what you put into your EHR will have a large impact on what you get out of it.