Going electronic in six painless steps

Forget the rumours — the switch from paper to computer records doesn’t have to be a nightmare

It’s a familiar refrain. Ask almost any Canadian physician if they’re planning to adopt an electronic medical record (EMR) system and the answer invariably begins, “Sounds great, but….”

In fact, Canadian docs came dead last in EMR use compared to other industrialized nations’ physicians in a survey last year by prestigious US-based healthcare charity the Commonwealth Fund. Just 23% of Canadian primary care physicians have computerized their patient files, in stark contrast to Holland’s sparkling 98% mark. If those were MCAT scores, the Dutch would walk away with all the big grants and the cushy fellowships — and Canada wouldn’t even get into med school. EMR systems have been shown to help reduce adverse events, improve communication between health providers and keep a tighter lid on health record privacy.

Sure, the prospect of going electronic can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to paralyze you. Follow these six simple steps to guide you through the research and implementation of an EMR software system.

Research, research, research. And then do some more research. That’s the advice from Dr Alan Brookstone, a Vancouver GP and the creator of Canadian EMR, an industry-funded project designed to help Canadian doctors choose EMR software.

Your most important source should be your fellow physicians, he says. (But don’t forget to make sure they aren’t shareholders or board members of the company they recommend.)

Vendors may offer demonstrations of their products to help you get a better look at them. Or you could go to a nearby clinic to check out their system first-hand.

Don’t rely on the internet too heavily; just sifting through the software company’s website and separating the gibberish from the gems could take longer than it took to earn your MD.

It’s important to include all of your practice’s physicians and staff in the decision process to ensure everyone is on the same page, adds Dr Brookstone.

More research sources will soon be available, including a full version of Dr Brookstone’s Canadian EMR project, which will feature a comparison tool to allow physicians to look at other physicians’ ratings of EMR software based on a number of criteria. (The site, which is not yet fully operational, has a physician-only blog located at emruser.typepad.com.) Canada Health Infoway is also developing a set of standards that it intends to use to certify EMR software.


Full article here: http://www.nationalreviewofmedicine.com


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