Small Practices Don’t Really Have Someone To Trust When Adopting EMRs

Posted on March 4, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

If I were running a medical practice — and knew I had to roll an EMR soon — I’d be banging my head against a wall.  While there’s plenty of talk about the reasons for EMR adoption (in some cases, 44,000 reasons) what consistent, reliable, accessible sources of information can physicians find on the subject?

You may think, “doubtless there’s plenty of colleagues to talk with, not to mention news stories and how-to sites out there, for physicians wanting an EMR,”  but it’s really not that simple:

*  Sure, physicians trust their peers, but with so few having gone whole-heartedly into the EMR game, there’s not a ton of peer support available — and that holds adoption down. You gotta love the whole chicken-and-egg dilemma here.

* Medical practice journals toss off the occasional article on the subject, but they’re often just highlighting a study on how many their peers are also looking into buying in (big help!)

*  Consultants of unknown bias pump out advice on how to choose an EMR, but it’s scattershot and often goes too technical or gets long-winded

*  Bibles of the medical news industry may pop out a case study or two on EMR adoption, but they’re usually focused on big players like the Cleveland Clinic, not the two- to five-physician practices that really need feedback.

* Sure, there’s the Regional Extension Centers, but I’m having trouble visualizing how an already intimidated doctor would bring him or herself to spend enough time with them to benefit.

* Of course, vendors are happy to tell nice stories about EMR use by small practices, but everyone takes those with a grain of salt, with good reason.

In other words, for a problem of such importance, there’s far too little appropriate guidance out there.

In truth, some medical societies probably are reaching out, not to mention hospitals, health plans and government, with reasonably useful suggestions.  But it’s still like a violent info thunderstorm out there.  Unless physicians find an ongoing source of reassuring guidance, which seems relatively unbiased and thorough, many are likely to hang back.

It comes down to this.  Incentives or no, no small business in or outside of medicine makes such a significant purchase without feeling comfortable — and if I was a low-tech doctor, I wouldn’t know how to get there. This can’t be good.