Helping doctors adapt to EMRs

Posted on May 8, 2011 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.

Much ink has been spilled discussing why physicians are resistant to adopting EMRs.

The thing is, it’s really no mystery.  Researchers have arrived at what seem like sensible answers to the question, including a) problems changing their work habits, b) fear of the unknown and c) struggles with kludgy interfaces.

So, why not take these problems on directly? While we can’t get inside clinicians’ heads and tell them how to think, we can address their issues concretely.

If the anecdotes I hear are accurate, many are pushed into EMR use and forced to do all the adapting, rather than getting the help they need.

So how can we help?

Obviously, physicians and other clinical staffers need access to accessible, intelligent training — ideally, both Web-based and live — as well as easy-to-use documentation that’s written in very simple language.

But that’s not all. While many institutions breeze by this step, IT departments (or consultants) should do everything they can to customize the EMR experience for individual clinicians. (If your EMR is too rigid to allow for this, that’s another story, but let’s pray you have one with some flexibility built in.)

It’s also important to pinpoint what other frustrations clinicians may have. For example, some doctors who type poorly are immensely frustrated by using EMRs, something keyboard-savvy techs might never consider.  A good old-fashioned typing course might work wonders in those cases.

In the rush to deal with the complex technical issues involved in EMR integration, it’s easy to blow by the needs of individual users.  It’s even easier to throw some fragmentary training at clinicians and assume they have a bad attitude if it doesn’t “take.”

The truth is, though, that nobody can afford to be short-sighted about getting users connected to EMRs.  Let’s hope everyone bears this in mind as the main wave of rollouts begins.