Teaching Med Students About EMR

This week I have a chance to do a lecture about EMR to a bunch of med students at a local medical school. There are so many facets to EMR, that I’m really trying to figure out which EMR concepts would be most valuable to a med student. I’d love to get some feedback from my readers on what they think would be most valuable. I’d especially like to hear from any doctors about what they wish they’d known about EMR when they were in medical school.

If you have ideas and suggestions, please leave them in the comments or if you prefer to keep your comments private, you can fill out my contact form. I’d really like to provide these students the most valuable information possible so your feedback is really appreciated.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • One important point is to let them know you get out of it what you put in—I work as a provider (NP) who works in the IT office to train and help the providers and nursing staff. Too many providers look at it as a glorified word processor instead of using the EMR to input data that can be later reported on or analyzed. For example we have some providers who have never entered the patients’ diagnoses into the “problem list” and instead just copy and paste the list they made in the previous note. Because the dx are not in a data set and instead are merely text in a note…we cannot recover, analyze or report on that data. If you don’t put the patients’ meds in the record and use escribe capabilities, you can”t get the full function of the EMR to show you medication reactions or contraindications. If you don”t use the Health Maintenance Planning function, you don’t get the capability of being reminded when the patient needs a HgA1c, mammo or PSA. If you don”t want to take the time and effort to initially input this information, then you might as well just dictate or get a word processor. I know it’s time consuming…I implemented an EMR in a smaller office…but in the long run it will be worth it.

  • Thanks Laura. Very insightful and helpful. I think that’s a very good thing I can share with them.

    I’d love to hear you talk more about why it’s worth it for a doctor to invest in granular documentation.

    Anyone else have ideas?

  • John, I will give you a few answers on the granular question based upon our customer’s experiences:
    1) Patient recall. If you have meds entered, for example, you can easily find and contact patients on that med. Health maintenance is another area – if it is being maintained, you will know the patient is due for a blood test, mammogram, etc. Not only does this produce revenue but it also produces better patient care.
    2) Better coding. By using data fields, most EHRs can provide coding assistance. Many providers find that this allows them to confortably code at a higher level. They are providing the higher level of care already but many don’t know the coding rules well enough or don’t document well enough to be confortable coding (without the EHR’s assistance) at the correct level.
    3) Computing power. A computer is usually faster and more reliable with data. For example, if vitals or other flowsheet type data has been entered as data, most EHRs can quickly produce a graph or matrix of the values over time and such graphs may provide a lot of insight into the patient’s progress. There’s not a good way to do this if the chart is just a bunch of text.

  • I am in a grant writing class in a small college in Lewisburg, West Virginia. We are writing a grant to obtain funding for an EMR computer system to teach students in nursing and other heath care related subjects to be able to understand and use the technology that will soon be required by law. I am not necessarily a student in a health care related field myself although my field, psych/ social work is somewhat related. Can anyone help me in formulating a good proposition toward this goal? Especially anyone who feels they might have benefitted from this type of training in the early stages of thier education. Thanks.

  • Rene,
    It’s an interesting questions. Let me see if I can understand this better.

    Are you writing a grant to get EMR software that will be used in an actual clinic that you have where you train students? Or do you just want some EMR software that you can use to demo for students? If it’s the second, then I’m sure you could just contact an EMR vendor and I’m sure they’d donate it to you. If you want it for an actual clinic, then a grant might work.

    One clarification is that there is no law that is requiring EMR software be used. There are just some possible Medicare penalties if you’re not using it and there’s also a goal by the president to adopt them. Both interesting reasons to have an EMR to train healthcare professionals, but not a requirement by law.

    One problem you may find is that there was some research that was done that says that many healthcare professionals are training on technology and then when they get into the workforce they have major challenges because the adoption rates of technology are so low.

    I’m guessing you’ll want to couch the grant by saying that by training these healthcare professionals on an EMR, they are more likely to become the advocates for EMR use once they graduate and will contribute to an increase in adoption of EMR software.

    I guess the other part of it will be making the case that healthcare professionals need to be trained in both EMR and non EMR settings. Maybe make the case for why this will help you to provide an education that covers both areas.

    Hopefully, some other people will have some ideas for you as well.

  • It would be good if the Med Student were look at EMR/EHR with a view toward disease profiling. PFT’s, labs, imaging, Physical Examination, History elements….when taken separately may have a key factor that may indicate the diagnosis. But taken in groupings or constellations may help in developing diagnostic acuity. Likewise, after the diagnosis, treatment modalities can be grouped and tracked for success.

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