Almost 8 years after the influx of EMR installations, I am still asking the same question. Why are EMR’s so hard to work with? In my opinion, it is the same reason now, as it was 7-8 years ago. Three reasons:

  1. The EMR is written by programmers, not medical professionals
  2. Everyone practices medicine differently and having an EMR conform to the way you see patients could be a daunting task.
  3. Resistance to the software, which is a lack of commitment to making it work.

Let’s face it. Getting an EMR up and running to how you want it takes an enormous amount of time and commitment. I’ve always said nothing is easier than thumbing through a paper chart. Of course not…you have the end result. The end result of tons of staff gathering documents, filing them, putting them in order, and getting them all ready for a medical practitioner to thumb through. Forget the time and money that the medical records department eats up. The cost for the space, the employees, the employee benefits,copier fees, etc. Using a paper chart is easy!

So again, why are EMR’s so hard to work with? Is it because it’s change? I’m going to say “yes” and “no” to that. Yes, because the change is HUGE, and no because change isn’t always bad.

How can you make it work?

There are a few things that can make your EMR easier to work with.

  1. Commit. Find a champion doctor in the practice and and work with them to fully understand the software.
  2. Proper training. This can make a world of difference. If you understand the software, you may even be able to help the vendor improve it.
  3. Don’t give up on it. Maximize it. Use ALL the benefits of the software. Make it your mission.

Don’t forget, when the EMR’s came out, they were blank pieces of paper. It was up to the EMR Vendors to try to create something millions of people can work efficiently with. This hasn’t been easy, but I have seen many improvements, and I really believe the reason why EMR’s are so hard to work with is because of the complexity of both the software, and the switch from paper charts.