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EMR adoption doesn’t have to hurt a bit

I have blogged about change a few times already.  This is a pretty important topic as it relates to healthcare reform and technology adoption.  It can be summed up in a single sentence: Change is coming.

Physicians don’t have time for change.  Nurses don’t have time for change.  Administrators don’t have time.  Everyone in the industry has more demands on their time every minute and technology isn’t making it any better.  Or is it?

A physician friend of mine told me he spends an extra two to four hours a day updating his new EMR system.  This is time he used to spend visiting patients and growing his practice.  Now he is forcing himself to do this in order to comply with Meaningful Use requirements.   This is typical and there is a lot of angst in the healthcare community as a result.

Many technology vendors focus on the technology and ignore the change.  They build systems that are optimized to collect and present data.  Most of these systems fall short as it relates to the user experience.   Designers and developers assume the users think like they do and are comfortable entering information based on how computers work.

Some companies have cracked this code.  They have designed EMR systems that start with the way the physicians, nurses, and care team do their work.  Last week I saw a demonstration of an EMR that is quite inventive.  The company’s designer spends a couple hours interviewing the care team members.  They probe the way they admit patients, the way they triage patients, the way they capture vitals and prior visit information.  Finally they review the physician visit, the paperwork created, and the overall workflow for the patient from the time they walk in the door until the visit is resolved.

After this interview, the designer spends a few hours developing interactive forms that are 99% identical to the current paperwork.  Since the experience is nearly identical to the current process, the overall “change” is minimal.  The users of this system completely love the experience.

Once patient data is moved from paper to a database, these same care team members are seeing unintended benefits.  They are recognizing opportunities for change in their workflow that is saving time and making more money for them.  After just a couple weeks using this system, they are recommending their own changes to make the experience for themselves and the patient more efficient.

Change will happen.  Some physicians have stated their intention to retire rather than embrace some of these changes.  In my opinion, this is unwise.  First of all, with just a little shopping, they can find solutions that work their way rather than forcing them to change their process.  Secondly, and more importantly, if they refuse to update their systems now, they will reduce the value of their practice when they retire.  It will be difficult, if not impossible, for them to sell this practice.  Either way, change is hard to swallow sometimes but technology can also make change easier.

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One thought on “EMR adoption doesn’t have to hurt a bit

  1. Naeem Hashmi

    Interesting Article. The true change occurs when you “REFORM before eFORM”.

    Implementing same old paper forms on screens does not bring a change or efficiency at all rather it trenches their thinking the old ways with no agility or process efficiencies in mind. So you are again stuck. This needs to be avoided and not professed. As care takers need to adopt to new systems anyway, you have an opportunity to bring/adopt change through innovative thinking the processes and breaking the ‘forms elements’ into small components (with validation checks) and recompose processes/UIs to increase reusability/experience — not just same old inflexible forms.

    Naeem

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