Cutting Down On EMR Implementation Struggles

Posted on August 14, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

In blogs like this one, we spend a lot of time talking about the frustrations doctors face when adapting to use of an EMR. But what if there were ways EMR implementations could be less painful for doctors (and their staff)? According to Dike Drummond, MD, there’s three major ways to minimize the pain and improve the process of putting an EMR in place in a medical practice.

* Change your attitude

According to Drummond, doctors often start out hating EMR technology and resisting the idea it could ever be helpful. “We treat the computer and the programs as if they rose from the very fires of hell to torment us,” Drummond notes. As a result, physicians fail to embrace the technology and never learn how to use it well, leading to more unhappiness, he suggests.

Instead of being angry and frustrated, set yourself a goal of becoming a power user, Drummond advises his colleagues. Take all vendor training twice, and have your nurse and receptionist do so too; customize your EMR to offer the most personalized and elegant experience possible, including automating any repeat keystrokes; and sit and watch over the shoulder of well-versed colleagues to see what existing power users do. “Just one tip from a power user colleague can make a huge difference in each patient encounter,” he says.

* Don’t force paper and EMR to compete

Too often, medical practices overlay new documentation requirements for their EMR on top of their paper chart patient flow process, and results are usually pretty ugly, Drummond warns. Doing so “sets up a Death Match between your old flow systems and your new EHR,” he says.

The better strategy is find ways to integrate the two processes, he  suggests. It’s much better to find ways to alter the way you see patients so the EMR documentation gets built into your patient flow.  Refusing to accept this makes no sense, he argues.

Leverage your team

Doctors are used to being the one who steps out in front and leads the team, but in this case, it’s important for doctors to dig in and take advantage of the insights their team can offer.  Doctors should get everyone’s ideas on how to refine workflow through powerful brainstorming sessions.

To further the process, Drummond recommends doctors ask open-ended questions such as the following:

~  What do you see me doing that I can stop – or  you can do better?
~  What ideas do you have on how we can do things differently to make documentation easier?
~  How can we share the charting activities more effectively?

Drummond’s points are well-taken, but I’d go even further. Doctors don’t need to just adapt to an EMR and tailor it to their needs, they have to embrace digital tools — from smartphones and tablets to patient portals and e-mail — if they’re going to survive the next wave of medical practice.  But for starters, it certainly makes sense to stop hating on EMRs and learn how to make them work as a supportive tool. The advent of EMRs is inevitable, so why fight?