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A List Of Must-Have EMR Features

Posted on July 28, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger 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.

When a doctor tells you what features they believe need to be in an EMR, it’s worth a listen. And when that doctor has personally managed the ongoing development of their own EMR, I find their ideas to be even more interesting.

Such informed recommendations are just what Hayward Zwerling, MD, has to offer. Zwerling is a practicing physician, and also the creator of the ComChart ambulatory EMR, which he launched in 1990 and kept on the market until 2015. Zwerling recently published a list of features which, he argues, should be in virtually every EMR. Below, here’s a sampling of his suggestions:

Lab features:

  • Provide a button displaying all abnormal lab results, and make the resulting list sortable by test name, test date or any other available parameter.
  • Allow the physician to display any subset of the patient’s lab results, and offer an option to omit individual results and resort the displayed data. Also, allow doctors to export the data in cvs or Excel format.
  • Permit doctors to create lab test charts on the fly, including any combination of tests from the patient’s existing lab work. In addition, make it possible to incorporate this chart into a Progress Note approved up to chart for the patient.
  • Make it easy for the doctor to create an association between incoming test results and specific medicines. (For example, if a cholesterol test result appears, include the name of any statin the patient currently takes.) And make it possible to create lab charts which include concurrent medication information, with just one click.
  • Clearly display who ordered a test and to whom a copy of the test was distributed.

Progress Notes:

  • Allow physicians to create test result charts from within the Progress Notes section.
  • Permit physicians to add selected free text from the Progress Notes to the problem list, medicine list, allergy list, family history or old problem list by highlighting the data and clicking a single button.
  • Create a free text field on the Progress Note layout allowing doctors to enter information that is not an official part of the patient’s chart. For example, the clinician might write a note such as “Daughter wants issue of her mother’s depression to be discussed at the mother’s next visit, and daughter does not want to be identified.”
  • Allow doctors to search free text Progress Notes for a word or phrase. Also, make it possible to search some or all of the entire EMR’s free text Progress Notes in this matter.

Zwerling goes on at much greater length in his post on The Health Care Blog, so much so that his suggestions spill over into a separate blog entry. But this subset of suggestions make the point on their own. He clearly believes — quite reasonably — that doctors should have access to simple, easy-to-understand tools when they use EMRs, and that there should be no need to refer to a manual or attend training classes.

He sums it up thusly: “The feature should be presented to the user in a manner which make it intuitively obvious how to utilize the feature.” Really, don’t we all agree with him? And if so, why are so few EMRs organized this way?

Whats Features in an EMR add value to the Appointment Workflow?

Posted on May 7, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A good question with an interesting article that looks at the benefits that an EMR is providing Indian doctors. I think sometimes we talk so much about EMR, that we don’t talk as much about other things like patient scheduling, appointment management, patient management, etc. I’ll be interested to hear people’s thoughts on the above article.

EMR Platform

Posted on March 26, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

After I wrote my post about 50 EMR markets instead of 1 EMR market, I started to wonder what an EMR might look like that was just an EMR platform.

The basic idea would be that some vendor would create a platform where other vendors could build on top of their platform. They’d offer the core elements and foundation needed for an EMR and then companies could build applications on top of those core elements that focus on the 50 different EMR markets (or whatever the number actually is).

The easy part is seeing someone who builds some specialty specific applications like growth charts for pediatrics or a drawing application for dermatology. The hard part is to decide which elements of the EMR are “core elements” that can act as a foundation for every type of specialty, practice, location, etc.

I guess the question of core elements really comes down to whether we can define any part of the EMR to be something that EVERY doctor could use. I think of the iPhone as the example of a platform that people have taken and expanded with applications. The core elements are the phone, the GPS, the accelerometer, etc. Then, various companies have created applications using that platform that can cover a wide range of markets. Making the comparison of EMR features with iPhone features is not an easy one.

I honestly don’t think any EMR vendor has done something like this yet. Sure, some of them have some API’s where some customizations can be done. However, I’m not sure I’ve seen the full embrace of creating an EMR platform. The closest I’ve probably seen is some to the open source EMR software that’s out there. It seems like some of them have done a good job modularizing the software so that many different people can iterate on the software.

What do you think? Is an EMR platform possible and what would it look like?

Killer EMR Features According to EMR Vendors

Posted on May 13, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. 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 previously posted a request to hear about the “killer” EMR features that set an EMR vendor’s software apart from the other 400 EMR vendors out there. As expected, some of the people who sent me a message didn’t understand what I mean. However, a few of the responses we’re pretty interesting. I think we’ve barely scratched the surface on EMR features, so please keep submitting your best EMR feature on the contact us page.

Here’s a quick look at three of the responses from EMR vendors. I’ve added strikethroughs when it’s not a killer feature and my commentary is in italics.

First up is SRSSoft‘s killer EMR feature:
The SRS hybrid EMR is a killer EMR, with the prime killer feature being “speed.” Speed is built into the hybrid EMR throughout, and is delivered in three primary ways—click minimization, OpenPath™ technology, and robust messaging.Speed is a killer featuring and an EMR company focusing on speed and calculating clicks makes it a killer feature.

SRS conducts time-motion studies to minimize the number of clicks and the number of seconds it takes for physicians to accomplish their most frequent clinical tasks. For example, a prescription can be written and approved with 2 clicks, and an image can be viewed with only one click. Additionally, the SRS nonproprietary OpenPath™ technology foundation allows the seamless “plug-in” of other applications—physicians can access a myriad of programs containing patient information directly from within the patient chart, without having to waste time toggling back and forth between SRS and other applications.I would have liked to see a list of applications which are already integrated, but an API(Application Interface) in an EMR is a really cool feature.

Furthermore, SRS Messaging automatically attaches the complete patient chart to every message between staff members, which means that when key information is needed to make a quick clinical decision and respond to a message, the information is only one click away.One click access to the patient chart is nice. I wonder how many clicks it takes to tie the message to the chart in the first place.

Speed, Fewer Clicks and an API are definitely killer features of an EMR. I’d be interested to try SRSsoft to see if they can really deliver these features. Regardless, I wish every EMR company was as focused on the number of clicks and the speed of their application.

XLEMR.com said the following:
Simplicity – Built on the single most widly used small business software in the world (Microsoft Office), XLEMR is as simple as Outlook, Word, and Excel. It’s not uncommon for doc’s to sit down and start using XLEMR with no training…I’d like to see how well a doctor uses this EMR with no training. No doubt office is a familiar application to many. However, I’m surprised how often doctors need to be trained on simple things in Word like saving a file to a specific location. Assuming a doctor can sit down and use it with no training, that’s a killer EMR feature.

Inexpensive – XLEMR works on your old hardware and software you already own. There is no server or database to crash and maintain. There is no dependence on the internet. There is no annual maintenance agreement and because it’s Microsoft you can improve it yourself or hire your nephew…Some might argue that these are all reasons why you should not implement this EMR. For example, there’s some benefits to having a database that anyone can access anywhere you have internet (which is everywhere these days). Not to mention more reliable server hardware compared to desktop hardware. However, this could be a killer EMR feature for certain practices.

Efficient – Chart established patients in 3 minutes including the exam, the orders, the labs, the coding, the note is faxed out to referring physicians, the prescription is faxed or printed or e-prescribed or all of the above, the bililng is done…I had to strike this one out for now. Every EMR vendor makes this claim more or less. I just don’t see that happening for most visits using just Word. I’d love to see some proof of this in a video or something. It also seems to contradict the “no dependence on internet” point above since so many of those things require internet to be done well.

Easy Implementation – Download, Install, Configure, and chart your first patient in 1hr or less…An hour is a seriously short period of time, however, a number of other EMR are claiming 5 minute EMR installs. I personally think that it’s all a bit of marketing spin. There are just far too many customizations people have to make and things people have to learn in order to implement an EMR.

Nice work XLEMR. Simplicity and inexpensive are both really killer features of an EMR. Executing on those two things will make a lot of doctors really happy. I can’t help but wonder what you might be missing as far as reporting and accessibility of records, but that’s not the point of this. The point is to learn about and share killer features that every EMR can try to obtain.

Next up, BennPenn:
Our program, BennPen, is different from most EMR systems because:
1. Our is simple to use. I believe many Drs. who have tried EMRs have rejected them
because they are complicated and difficult to use and the Drs find it takes longer to use
the program than to write the notes as they always have.
This could be a really killer EMR feature, but I’d need to know a specific example of how it’s simpler than other EMR. It’s not just enough to say it’s simple.
2. Our program is customized for each Dr. We load the templates, forms, letters the Doctor
uses into BennPen so he or she continues to chart with the forms they are familiar
with.This is an awesome feature. Many doctors love to chart the way they’re use to charting. I’m sure that many EMR purists will argue that it’s not a real EMR if you don’t capture granular data. However, I think there’s a middle ground that should be considered. Also, what makes this description a killer EMR feature is that the EMR vendor loads the templates for the doctor.
3. The Doctor can use voice, drop-down lists, or a combination of the two. Every EMR vendor can do this, no?
4. Our program is less expensive than many – $3,000 plus $500 for each Dr. over 1 in the
office.I’m always happy to help inform people that the price of EMR doesn’t have to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s what makes lower priced EMR a killer feature.
So, BennPenn added customized EMR templates (loaded by the EMR vendor) and low cost EMR. Two really great features.

I think we’re just barely scratching the surface on what makes an EMR vendor special. Although, maybe the lesson here is that it’s the core features that every EMR claims to offer that makes them special. Maybe I should rephrase the question. Instead of asking about a killer feature, maybe I should be comparing the same feature across multiple EMR systems and highlighting what makes each EMR systems implementation of that feature unique, different and/or better. I’m going to have to think on this one.

EMR Vendors – Identify Your Best EMR Feature

Posted on May 6, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. 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 thinking about the over 400 EMR vendors I have listed on my site and on the EMR and EHR matrix of companies (shameless plug). With that many EMR vendors, I have to assume that every one of them has a solid reason why they’re better than other EMR vendors. At least it seems logical that they should have at least some “killer feature” that sets their EMR apart from the other 400 choices out there.

This got me to thinking that I’d love to hear EMR vendors make the case for their killer feature(s). Let’s hear you make the case for your EMR in the comments or submit it to our Contact Us page. Those features that catch my eye will be featured on this site with a link to your EMR company.

I expect that most killer features will need at least a small paragraph to explain why it’s killer. Although, I’m not looking for a dissertation on your EMR features either. Imagine we’re in an elevator and you only have the elevator ride to tell me what makes your EMR unique. Give me a reason to tell everyone about your EMR company.

Here’s a simple example:
My current EMR company has kiosk software that allows patients to fill out all the required paperwork electronically and check them in for the appointment with no interaction with the front desk. Forms can be scheduled to expire so that HIPAA privacy forms can be refreshed if changes are made. Electronic signatures (like you do at Walmart) can also be done on all the forms that normally require a signature on paper. This feature saves not only front desk time, but also prevents having to scan all of the paperwork later.

That’s far from a perfect example, but I think you can see that patient self check in kiosks and electronic signature pads are a killer feature.

Let’s hear what feature sets your EMR above the pack?

UPDATE: Big bonus points for anyone who provides a video demo of their killer EMR feature.

Plain vs. Sexy EHR Features

Posted on March 20, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the major challenges in comparing various EHR software has to do with comparing features. For example, think about the feature we call document management. I can pretty much guarantee you that EVERY EHR vendor out there can easily answer that they have a document management system. Honestly, most of them can do so without it even falling under what I’ve called EMR sales miscommunications. However, there’s an important question that those interested in using an EHR should consider.

Did you’re EHR make the feature sexy or is it just getting by?

Continuing with the document management example. Does your EHR software’s document management basically consist of uploading a document into the paper chart and possibly naming the file you uploaded? That’s a perfect example of an EHR that’s just getting by in regards to document management.

So, what would sexy document management look like? Sexy document management could consist of deep integration with your scanner and direct scanning into the paper chart. Documents could have tags available which down the road will help you filter the various documents according to those tags. Does your document management allow for electronic signing/stamping of the document. Of course, this would include full tracking of any additions made to the document. However, it would allow you to write on your documents similar to how you would have done in a paper chart.

Ok, so there’s probably a dozen other things that should be part of a sexy document management feature, but I think I’ve illustrated the point. You can easily see that one document management was just thrown in there on a whim. The other document management you can tell has been planned and is well thought out.

Comparing features to see who’s really thought through an important feature is a good way to help in the EMR selection process. It’s also a good way to think about how your EHR vendor can improve the EHR software you’ve already implemented.