If Doctors Bought EMRs Like They Buy Cars…

Posted on March 30, 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.

You know, when you think about an EMR purchase, it’s obvious that there’s plenty of technical considerations involved.  But the truth is, when it comes down to it, most doctors will never need to know anything about APIs or coding or middleware before they pick out a system. They just want the EMR to work.

The thing is, they’ve already made a big investment in technology before — maybe lots of times — even though they probably know little or nothing about how the gears really mesh. I’m talking about automobile buying, of course.  I sort of doubt a single doctor has ever sat through a Webinar on the difference between anti-lock and regular brakes, the advantages of added cargo room or the physics of improved gas mileage. But they still buy cars, don’t they?

No, like everyone else, I’m sure your average doctor takes in commercials, makes a few mental notes as to how the promised benefits fit into their world, digests the information a bit and then goes shopping. At that point, they’re briefed on what features the car has, and tell the salesperson whether that works for them.  Ultimately, they buy something that fits their budget, their needs and probably, their self-image too.

Now, an EMR isn’t a fashion statement — while cars most decidedly are — but in other ways, the purchasing process should be similar.

After all, the software they’re choosing should be as utilitarian as an SUV. They should come to the buying process knowing what needs they’re trying to address (in a car, say, the ability to haul big objects, or in an EMR, being able to enter patient notes quickly and clearly). Hopefully, they have a sense of how they’re going to use their EMR on a day-to-day- basis, as they obviously do when they’re car shopping.

And with any luck, they’ll also know what ongoing problems they’re trying to solve, be they managing the flow of laboratory results, making sure they’re reminded to follow up on preventive care, looking at the health of their patient population and so on.

If a practice knows these things, they won’t be blinded by a blizzard of technical terms or worry about whether they’re on version 2.15 of the latest build. They won’t have to spend much time debating over whether a SaaS or client-server solution makes more sense. They’ll just want to get the job done.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get to that point when a technology comes in looking all scary, complicated and expensive.  But as any one who’s ever bought a new car knows, you can always take the damned thing back.