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EMR Education Requirements For Doctors A Mixed Blessing

Posted on June 15, 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.

As many readers know, the state of Massachusetts will soon require doctors to prove that they’re at least minimally EMR-savvy. By the year 2015, doctors will need to be able to demonstrate that they’re competent in EMR use to maintain their license, and apparently, having CME credits in this area counts as “proficiency.”

While there’s no guarantee, my guess is that most or all of the other state governments will take a similar tack. After all, the federal government has thrown its weight behind EMR use and imposed standards (Meaningful Use) demanding that clinicians generate some value from their system.  If I were in state officials’ shoes, I’d want to get on the bandwagon before I was forced to adopt federal rules on this subject. (I’m also betting on the spread of the Mass approach simply because the state is a trend-setter.)

In theory, this is a good idea. Nobody wants to see themselves or someone they care about harmed because their doctor didn’t know how to enter data, where to click or whether they’re looking at the right allergy list, just to make up a few random issues. And while CME courses aren’t perfect, they can at least be standardized to make sure everyone’s at a known minimum level of expertise.

That being said, this approach has some drawbacks, none of which are trivial.

For one thing, I’d argue that doctors don’t need to be brilliant EMR users so much as skilled EMR thinkers. In other words, doctors need to know how to leverage their EMRs to improve patient health, to detect possible issues such as medication mix-ups and streamline clinical data sharing, not just get through a clinical interview screen compentently or figure out e-prescribing. If states are going to get involved with the EMR education process, why not go for higher-level training which can actually improve patient care over the long term?

Another concern I have is that while CME courses may provide excellent training in core EMR skillsets, there’s no such thing as a single “EMR system.”  With (depending on who you believe) anywhere from 300 to 1000+ EMRs on the market, physicians can’t possibly learn everything they need to know from a single course. While some may adapt to their own EMR’s idiosyncrasies faster, others with CME credit may develop a false sense of confidence or simply burn out when they find out how much more they need to learn.

Last but not least, I’d hate to see EMR training go down the pharma path. Right now, of course, pharmas arguably buy doctor loyalty by sponsoring CME courses lavishly.  If doctors need CMEs in EMR use to keep their license, big EMR vendors with fat wallets (or even the pharmas) will step in and pay for them, a process which could eventually hand the market to the best-funded rather than the most sophisticated EMR product.

Truthfully, my arguments are probably in vain. My prediction is that CME courses for EMR use will eventually be required here, there and everywhere in the U.S.  I’m just hoping that a more robust model for training doctors emerges; this one may shortchange everyone involved.

Adopt an EHR or Lose Your Medical License

Posted on May 5, 2011 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.

I was glancing through my draft posts today and found this article by Neil Versel, now blogging at Meaningful Healthcare IT News, about State Medical Boards considering making EHR user a condition of medical licensor. That’s right. To renew your medical license using an EHR could be part of the clinical competence test.

On face value, it’s a kind of crazy idea to consider. Although, couple that with a post on EMR Thoughts that talks about a Doctor Quiting His Practice Over EHR Use. Makes you think for a second the value of EHR knowledge for a doctor practicing medicine.

Turns out that Massachusetts has already put this requirement in place starting in 2015. Here’s a quote about that doctor that closed his practice thanks to his inability to use the EHR.

Like all Massachusetts doctors, the physician also was required to comply with the state’s Section 305 law. It mandates that physicians demonstrate competency in EHR use by 2015 to maintain licensure.

I must admit that this is a hard pill to swallow for me. Do we really need to make this a requirement? Does making it a requirement add any value? In Massachusetts it says they’re using CME’s to show a person’s EHR proficiency. A really powerful measure of proficiency < end sarcasm font>. Therein lies the problem. How do you measure EHR proficiency?

Although, the doctor leaving the practice, which is an issue in itself, also illustrates why EHR proficiency shouldn’t be a requirement for a medical license. In the not so distant future, it will be hard to practice medicine without EHR proficiency whether the medical boards require EHR knowledge or not.