Dec 28, 2017

Physician Viewpoint: Decade Later, EMRs Enhance, Frustrate

By Manish Naik, MD

Pros, cons, “lessons learned” and much-needed changes to electronic medical records (EMRs) are explored by Austin Regional Clinic’s Patti Parker and me in a new Texas Hospitals magazine story (Working Through the Promises and Pitfalls of Electronic Health Records).

As an administrator and practicing physician, I’ve seen and experienced how EMRs have both improved patient care while also frustrating physicians.

The biggest challenge is dealing with the interface. Even today, after so many years and feedback from organizations like ourselves, the user interface is still not physician friendly. The screens are busy; there are still a lot of clicks.

Extra clicks mean more time focused on the screen than the patient, a sentiment felt by me and my many clinician colleagues. The next biggest frustration — compatibility or lack of it. Sharing records outside of Austin Regional Clinic is difficult and cumbersome.

Despite the many frustrations with EMR (and there are many), there is no question that the continuity of care within our own health community at ARC has gotten better.

Patti Parker, our Vice President for Population Health, has been managing our organization’s clinical and quality data since we were using paper records. From that perspective, she says “the advent of EMRs has been nothing short of a miracle.” It’s hard not to agree.

Because, while painful for both physicians and IT personnel, EMRs improve communication within our organization and create ways to analyze data that cannot be done with paper charts.
There are some physician conveniences, too. Drug interaction research, weight-based calculations or physically looking up in-house records are now unnecessary.
Our own EMR system offers outstanding benefits to patients – many of which also help providers such as:

  • Easier access to up-to-date medical records for both providers and patients.
  • Allergies and adverse drug reactions are recorded and easy for providers to find.
  • Test results go directly into medical charts, so all providers have access.
  • Patient messages can be sent directly to provider offices.

Bottom line: EMRs still have a long way to go, but they are true game changers, making more information easily accessible to patients and providers.
The only way organizations can take full advantage of all that EMRs offer is to become fully committed. There is no turning back.

Dr. Manish Naik is Chief Medical Information Officer and Internal Medicine Physician at Austin Regional Clinic. He joined ARC in 1996.