Is Your EMR a Spoon or a Backhoe? – Importance of How an EMR Vendor Implements Meaningful Use

Posted on December 8, 2010 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.

It has become more and more apparent that the way an EMR vendor implements the meaningful use requirements is going to be critically important to a doctor’s successful adoption of the meaningful use criteria which is of course essential to get the $44,000 in EMR stimulus money.

I think it’s easy for doctors and practice managers that aren’t as familiar with the various EMR software and with the details of the EMR stimulus to get confused. On face, it seems that the effort to get the EMR stimulus money shouldn’t be affected by which EMR software you choose as long as it is an ONC-ATCB certified EMR. However, this is just categorically WRONG!

The EHR certification is meant to tell you that it CAN meet the meaningful use guidelines. It doesn’t tell you how easily it is to meet the meaningful use guidelines. It doesn’t tell you how well they integrated the meaningful use guidelines into your regular workflow. It doesn’t tell you how well it lets you delegate the meaningful use tasks to other staff members so you can optimize the doctors time. So, yes, EHR certification should mean it’s possible to show meaningful use. EHR certification does not make any claims to how effective that EHR software will actually accomplish the task.

Here’s a simple analogy:
If I wanted to dig a hole for a footing on a house, I could probably use a spoon to dig the hole. It would take forever to actually dig the hole, but a spoon could work. It would suck to use a spoon to dig the hole and quite honestly I’d probably give up before I finished, but with enough blood sweat and tears I could get the hole dug.

Of course, if I had a shovel, digging the hole would be much easier. I could get it done with just a bit of hard work. It would obviously go a lot faster than a spoon. Now, if I had a backhoe, digging the hole would basically be academic. Achieving the goal would be simple to accomplish, because the tool was designed perfectly to achieve it.

It’s worth asking yourself whether the EMR you use or the EMR you choose is a golden spoon or a powerful backhoe when it comes to achieving meaningful use. Maybe both can achieve the goal of meaningful use, but is it just made to look nice and shiny or was it really designed to make achieving meaningful use as painless as possible?

Thanks to Randall Oates from SOAPware and Evan Steele from SRSsoft for inspiring this post.

I was talking with Randall recently about SOAPware’s approach to EHR certification and meaningful use. He told me that SOAPware could have thrown something together quickly and been easily certified against the EHR certification criteria when it first opened. However, he didn’t like that approach. Instead he wanted SOAPware to take its time and make sure that the criteria were implemented in a usable and useful way.

Evan just posted a blog post about not all meaningful use EMR being equal. Here’s one portion of what he said that prompted this post:

Demonstrating meaningful use will still demand additional work, and certified—or to-be-certified—EMRs are not alike in how they facilitate doing this. It is critical for physicians to understand and evaluate the differences among EMRs in terms of how they deliver meaningful use capability and the impact on the time it takes to meet the requirements with each.

Evan also offers a few suggestions on things you might ask your EMR vendor:
*How easy is it to enter the required data? (This is particularly important as requirements become more demanding in future stages of the program.)
*What changes will you have to make to the way you see patients?
*How will you document the care you provide?
*Does the system effectively allow delegation of tasks to staff members to minimize the time physicians must spend doing data entry?
*Does the vendor’s software platform enable keeping up with evolving requirements?

There you go! Now you have a list of questions you can ask SRSsoft (and other EMR vendors) when you’re evaluating them.

I’d love to hear other ways people are evaluating an EMR vendor’s implementation of meaningful use. Not to mention ways that EMR vendor’s have implemented meaningful use that differentiates themselves from other EMR vendors.