Kickin’ It Old School: 7 Pre-EMR Technologies to Implement Today

Posted on November 2, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

I was on the phone recently with an insurance company representative, inquiring about their policies, premiums and hidden caveats. During the middle of my call, the rep tells me his computer seems to have frozen up, and that he can’t move forward with answering my questions because he literally can’t move to the next screen containing the answers. “But wait,” he says excitedly, “I do have some paper to read off of.”

I chuckled to myself thinking of how many times physicians have had a similar experience, much to the consternation of electronic medical records (EMRs) vendors. Ah, good ‘ole paper. Healthcare’s last bastion of pre-HITECH document keeping. It’s always there when you need it – if you still have it.

This thinking transitions nicely into the topic of “old-school” technologies physicians should consider before going completely digital with their documentation in the form of an EMR. Culled from several recent and not-so-recent articles (See “10 technologies to embrace before EMRs,” and “HIT Projects You Can Implement Today”), with a few of my own suggestions thrown in for good measure, the list below goes from extremely low-tech to on-the-verge-of-clinical technologies.

1. Copy Machine/Printer Combo
You may laugh at the simplicity, but if a doctor’s computer ever freezes up, a copy of a patient’s paper chart will come in very handy.

2. Fax Server
Again, simplistic in nature, but elemental in sharing data with other offices. Perhaps we’ll see resurgence in fax technology now that the government has eased EMR requirements associated with participation in accountable care organizations.

3. Instant Messaging
So 2008, but still a very effective method of communication amongst an office’s nurses, clinicians and front-desk staff.

4. Email
For the love of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, who didn’t have access to such an easy form of communication, set up an email account – at least for the business side of your office. It would be nice if ALL physicians (including my daughter’s pediatrician) had secure email messaging with their patients, but that’s a whole other blog.

5. IT Infrastructure
You’ve got to build the foundation before you can start wiring the house. As John Lynn mentions in the second article referenced above, “Good IT companies will come and do an analysis of your current IT setup for free.”

6. Microsoft Office and Google Apps
As HIT consultant Shahid Shah mentions in the first article referenced above, free tools will help an office get its feet wet before diving into a full-fledged EMR. These two in particular have “dirt simple” documentation management that allows everyone in the office to be on the same page.

7. Document Imaging
Most scanners come with basic imaging software already included, Shah explains, adding that once physicians are good at scanning and paper digitalization, they can move on to “medical grade” document management that can improve productivity.
What other tools would you suggest to providers looking to ease their way into EMR adoption? Please share your comments below.