EMR Systems Should Make Clinicians' Jobs Easier

Lora Bentley
Slide Show

2011 Health Care IT Survey

The race is on for hospitals nationwide to deploy EMRs.

Lora Bentley spoke with Rick Kneipper, co-founder and chief strategy officer for Anthelio Healthcare Solutions, about the biggest obstacle to EMR adoption among health care professionals. EMRs have to be easy to use, he says. If they're not, implementing them will be a very poor investment.

You've said that interoperability is the real key to effective electronic medical records, but if you're looking at it from a health care practitioner's view, what's the biggest stumbling block to adopting them? Is it the same?
Kneipper: Usefulness is the next important factor. As it stands now, EMRs have been generally designed to suit the technology side, and the administration side, but not necessarily to suit the clinical side. As a result, there are lots of studies around that find adoption by physicians and hospitals is low because using the EMR systems takes them more time, rather than less time, and it's more complicated rather than less. Essentially, they have to learn a new way to practice medicine, which wasn't the idea.

Bentley: Right. Technology is supposed to make their jobs easier. So what's to be done?
Kneipper: There are a couple of answers. One, the physicians, nurses and other clinicians need to be involved in implementing the applications. Very often, they're not because EMR implementations are viewed as strictly technology implementations ...


Anthelio has gone into lots of situations where the EMR system was "in the ditch" and we had to get it on the road again. Almost every time, it was because the IT people said, "We're going to do this." They got little involvement from the docs ... And what a surprise! When they got it up and running, the docs didn't like it and didn't use it.

Bentley: Obviously, it's not the best use of resources when that happens.
Kneipper: Right. So you've got to get them involved on the front end, and make sure the planned implementation is going to improve their patient care, improve their efficiency. Sometimes that involves pushing the vendor to make sure that things are easier to use.

Bentley: And the second answer to the usefulness problem?
Kneipper: You've got to educate the clinicians. In one instance, a hospital invested $40 million and almost two years to implement an EMR system, but the physician usage rate was only 18 percent, which is a terrible result. When we went in to see what had happened, we found that the "training" for clinicians on how to use the system consisted of a website with instructions. They had said, "This website will teach you how to do it." Guess what happened? No one even bothered to look.

Bentley: Of course not.
Kneipper: So it's important to make them part of the solution ... In fact, one of the things we strongly recommend before you even implement an EMR system is to put together a multidisciplinary team and analyze how patient care flows through the organization. Figure out how to re-engineer that to make it more efficient. Then, the EMR can better do what you need it to do.

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