EHRs Were Never Designed to Influence Medicine

Posted on May 4, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This is a concept I’ve been chewing on for a couple years. When you look at the history of EHR software, EHRs were not designed to influence medicine. They weren’t designed to improve care. They weren’t designed to ensure patient safety. Looking back, they were designed as big billing and documentation engines.

When you look at their feature sets, this becomes abundantly clear. EHRs were designed to better help a practice document the visit and bill the insurance company. The idea of improving patient care, better patient safety and other ideas came along much later.

As I mentioned, I’ve written about this idea before. Usually, I proceed to talk about how doctors and practices that expect their EHR to improve care have been misled. I still think that’s largely the case and that expectations need to be adjusted. However, today I realized that there’s another important lesson that needs to be learned by the history of EHR software and that lesson is for EHR vendors.

EHR vendors need to realize that their systems weren’t designed to improve care. Write as many blog posts as you want. Add whatever signage you want to your exhibit hall booth or to your email campaigns. You still weren’t designed to improve care. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important that a company knows who it is and knows its limitations.

Think about how valuable it would be for an EHR vendor to come to this realization. Once they realize this to be the case, then their approach to working with other companies would shift dramatically. Instead of seeing other companies that do improve patient care as the enemy, they could see them as partners that could enable their EHR users to improve care. That’s right. An EHR software doesn’t have to be the end all be all.

Even if your EHR software can improve care in a few ways, this concept still applies. An EHR vendor has limited bandwidth. They can’t do everything and so they can’t improve care across every medical specialty and every opportunity. Even within a specialty, there are often innovations that other companies can provide that the EHR vendor doesn’t have time, expertise, knowledge, or capability to provide. This is why an EHR vendor that has amazing partner relationships is going to be so valuable moving forward.

I actually only know one EHR company that was truly started to modernize medicine. However, even they can’t do everything. Every EHR vendor will have to rely on partners if they really want to influence medicine the way they could and the way they should.