Bringing up Your EMR in an Era of Meaningful Use

By now I assume most of you have read the recently released final rules for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use – or at least the plethora of synopses available online. (It wouldn’t hurt to read what Lynn Scheps wrote about meaningful use stage 2 over at EMRandHIPAA.com.)

Whatever level of knowledge you may possess about these rules and how near or far they deviate from those proposed, I think we can all agree that the EMR industry (developers and end-users) is suffering immense growing pains as vendors and physicians adjust to the Meaningful Use scheme. (I use that term in the British sense, by the way.)

Julie McGovern, CEO of Practice Wise, cleverly equated implementation of an EMR to being pregnant in a recent blog:

“In the beginning, you are tired and often feel like you have morning sickness. The first trimester is the hardest. In the second trimester, you start to get your legs under you, your energy starts to return, and you feel less beaten down by the EHR. By the third trimester, you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s starting to be second nature, the product is making more sense (hopefully), you’ve got good workflows and everyone is starting to forget how hard the first trimester was.”

I’ll go one step further and equate utilization (i.e. the regular use of an EMR after go-live) as relates to the various stages of Meaningful Use with bringing up that baby. I might even disagree with her – pregnancy is often the easy part (provided you’ve had no complications along the way, of course, be they IT, managerial, administrative, cultural or otherwise). You’ve got the PR-friendly ribbon-cuttings, parties and press releases that hospitals often initiate around their go-lives. Well-deserved events, to be sure. But then come the hard parts, when you and your colleagues integrate that new bundle of joy into your daily lives (i.e. workflows).

Eventually the EMR will develop its own personality, form bonds with its users, bring joy to many for the clinical outcomes it improves, and hopefully not cause too many tears of frustration along the way. Hopefully it will gossip with its peers at other hospitals, and even aspire to interoperate in the same circles as its distant cousin – health information exchange. You can bet that it will end up costing more money than you had anticipated – upgrades, add-ons, etc.

The years will go by – 2014 and 2016 will be here before you know it. Hopefully, the EMR that caused so much joy when it was first brought into this world shiny, new and virus-free will still bring a smile to the face of its users, and better care to the patients whose information it so closely guards.