Complaints of EMR Documentation Aren’t Completely the EMR Vendors’ Fault

Posted on November 24, 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.

One of the biggest complaints surrounding the implementation of an EMR is the way the EMR software handles the documentation method. Beyond just the learning curve, there are plenty of EMR software that have a terrible user experience.

While I don’t want to totally let EMR vendors off the hook, I do think it’s worth noting that EMR vendors aren’t completely to blame for the unwieldy interfaces. I believe one of the biggest reasons that the EMR documentation interfaces are so terrible is thanks to the crazy insurance billing and documentation requirements.

Seriously, it’s a total mess. Everyone that’s involved with insurance billing in healthcare knows what I’m talking about. Trying to code an application that’s easy to use, works well for the doctors and still handles all the insurance billing and documentation requirements is a serious challenge and so it’s not surprising why so many EMR software fails to deliver a great user experience.

That’s not to say that all EMR software have terrible user experiences. Although, let’s be honest that they’re taking on a nearly impossible task. I guess I compare the insurance documentation and billing requirements to cleaning a toilet. Nobody really likes to do either. Yet, they’re absolutely necessary jobs. Certainly there are some tools that can make cleaning a toilet easier (gloves, wands, cleaning solutions, etc). However, it’s still a task that isn’t fun to do no matter how you slice it (unless you pay someone else to do it, but the pain of the expense is still there). The billing and documentation parts of an EMR software are trying to do the same thing: make a task that no one likes easier. Unfortunately, using an EMR isn’t going to change a task that no one likes into something fun.

I hope that EMR vendors don’t use this as an excuse to not focus on creating usable software. It’s NOT! However, I think it’s important to consider the true impact of the EMR. Is it really the EMR software that is so bad or did you hate these parts of practicing medicine before having an EMR as well?

If you find that it’s the EMR software that’s so bad, then hopefully you were smart in the contract you signed with your EMR vendor (see the EMR contract section of my Free EMR Selection e-Book). You won’t be the first or the last practice to switch EMR vendors.

Of course, if the complicated insurance billing and documentation is the problem. Maybe Obamacare’s single payer insurance plan will help to solve that issue. At least there would only be one organization to deal with.