Monday, March 22, 2010

Melissa Young, MD: How my EMR stacks up

In previous posts, I wrote about my journey towards finding an EMR. I did lots of research. I read multiple articles online and in print. I looked at the surveys. I asked the experts. I had demos, online and live. I did site visits. And eventually, I made my choice.

But despite this somewhat obsessive search for the perfect EMR (this was probably the most important decision I had to make at the time), I have still found imperfections. This part doesn’t work as smoothly as I had hoped. This needs tweaking. This part is inconvenient. This part is just nonfunctional. And since the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, I have from time to time wondered if, perhaps, there could have been a better choice.

Now don’t get me wrong. Most of the time, the EMR works (nearly) flawlessly. It performs all the major functions that I need it to. It makes my life and the life of my staff infinitely easier than it would have been had we had paper charts. The schedule, chart, and billing information are at our fingertips. Everything gets documented without a six-inch stack of paper.
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Patients who come with their previous records of the last 10 years can leave with their epic saga in their hands because we don’t need to keep the hard copies. When a patient calls because he needs a refill, I can say, “No you don’t. I gave you 90 days and two refills on December 12. ABC Pharmacy on Main Street has your scrip.” Since I can copy their last visit, I can ask (as if from memory), “So has that ache in your left leg gotten better?” or “Has your daughter had the baby?”

But I was most reassured earlier this week when I attended an EMR seminar. I almost didn’t go. After all, I’m not in the market for a new one. But part of the lecture was going to be on getting the Medicare incentive for that all-too-nebulous “meaningful use,” and I figured it would be a good networking event, so I went.

The first third of the seminar was how to choose an EMR and how to implement it. The second was “the top 10 questions EMR vendors don’t want you to ask.” Although I didn’t “need” that information, it did make me feel good about my choice. And that’s because I knew from experience what the answers were. Questions about backing-up data, customer support, ease of implementation, work flow, etc.

Listening to the questions and the things to look for in an EMR, I knew that if someone asked me if I would choose my EMR again, I would have to say that based on what I had to compare it with, and knowing what I know about it now, I definitely would.

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