ORLANDO, Fla.—Electronic medical records (EMRs) are costly and require significant staff time to implement but have the potential to bring huge benefits to patients and doctors alike, said speakers at the Triological Society’s Combined Sections Meeting held here Feb. 4-7.
Explore this issue:March 2010
“The reality is that I must be willing to modify my course when I recognize a more efficient way to do business,” said Kenny H. Chan, MD, chairman of the department of pediatric otolaryngology at Children’s Hospital, Denver, after describing the arduous process of switching to EMRs at his institution. “I am but an insignificant speck in the big picture. EMR is here to stay, like it or not, so adapt.”
Brian Nussenbaum, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who has worked with EMRs for 9 years, admitted that implementation can be a challenge. “I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Dr. Nussenbaum, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and vice chairman of clinical affairs. “But today I’m going to talk only about the good. EMR will lead to happier employees and physicians as well as to safer, better quality care for patients.”
Dr. Nussenbaum described how he and other doctors now work from “dashboards,” large computer monitors that are installed in every exam room to display each patient’s records. “You can see everything you need when you walk into the room to see that patient,” Dr. Nussenbaum said. “And, after the visit, the information I enter goes directly into the records and to the insurance company.”
Dr. Nussenbaum and colleagues also do e-prescribing. The transition to computerized physician order entry three years ago would have been far more difficult, Dr. Nussenbaum said, if the hospital had insisted on sticking to the original deadline. “Shortly before the planned date for implementation, we realized no one was ready for it,” he said, “so we went through three more years of development, teaching, training and modifying the system to get to the point that we could introduce it safely.”
In an effort to encourage EMR adoption, the federal government is offering billions of dollars in incentives. To be eligible for these monetary incentives, a hospital or physician group must select an EMR vendor certified by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT). “It ensures that the EMR they certify have basic capabilities that the federal government believes you must have to provide safe, quality care,” Dr. Nussenbaum explained.