EHR Evolution Can Improve Doctors’ Lives

Posted on January 31, 2012 I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at

Or is it the doctor’s evolution with an EHR?  Recently, John Lynn of asked me to comment on how the evolution of EHR can improve a phyisicans life.  This was sparked by the announcement by an EMR vendor that their electronic prescribing process was made simpler, moving from a 6 screen click process to a 2 screen process.  Although I think I’ve put this into some of my posts, perhaps in a scattered fashion, it’s a good topic to keep discussing.

More recently, I’ve been trying to pare down my EMR documentation to just the essentials, and it’s surprising after more than two years in private practice working with EMRs (two different vendors) that I can still find places to cut corners and make my life even easier, … ahem, … I mean better.  I wouldn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression that my life is easy.

Most recently, I’m working on fine tuning my templates and cutting out things that don’t seem to matter, like the section for chief complaint.  This has now become just an automatically populated field with the time and date stamp of the appointment and when the patient actually showed up.  Anyone who reads the “History of Present Illness” section will know what the chief complain is anyway since it’s reiterated there.  Ah, I love redundancy!

Although I didn’t mention much about it, my EHR system has evolved and “upgraded” its programming over time, and these changes have mostly been good and needed ones.  Most of these changes, however, are behind the scenes alterations that the end user will never know about unless they get announced.  One comment I can make is that, in 2011, software changes in order to meet Meaningful Use has derailed a lot of the more potentially innovative, dreamy ideas that could be so much more if the EHR vendors weren’t having to jump though creativity-stifling, complex hoops to redo their systems to meet even Stage 1 MU.  This will probably get worse as the hoops become more onerous in Stages 2 and 3.

However, back to my more productive line of thought.  The best part of continually refining one’s strategies for using their EMR system is that it leaves them with even more time to use for other more beneficial things in one’s professional life.  Life is so short, so I highly recommend choosing wisely how to spend it.