Minimum EMR Functionality DOES NOT Equal Usable EMR

Sometimes I feel like it’s my mission to combat the myths associated with EMR certification, selection and implementation. Ok, so maybe it’s mostly the EHR certification, but selection and implementation are closely tied to EMR certification. On that note…

An EMR certification that verifies “minimum EMR functionality” DOES NOT equal a usable EMR.

Yes, it’s a subtle difference, but an important one that far too many people ignore. Call it good marketing by the certification body. Call it a misunderstanding. Regardless, it’s scary how many people think that by testing for a “minimum EMR functionality” they are more likely to have a successful EMR implementation. The problem is, it doesn’t. If it did, then we’d have a lot more successful EMR implementations.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, 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,, 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.


  • John,
    You are aboslutely correct. It may be a sublte difference as you mention yet it is clearly the difference between a successful EMR implementation and a not-so-successful one (quite likely failure). “Minimal EMR functionality” is by no means equivocal to a “usable EMR”. It is so extremely important to understand the HOW — how does the EMR operate to meet that minimal functionality? If it takes me 8 clicks and two screens to accomplish a particular task, as an end user, that is not acceptable, aka ‘not usable’.
    Also, an EMR solution that works for one group will not always work for another. It is critical to step back and understand (as a medical group) how work is done and how the EMRs that are being considered help accomplish that work.
    Similary, I am a true believer that the medical group needs to drive the demonstration when the group has gotten to that point. The group should craft numerous scenarios that address the group’s current ‘troublesome’ areas or concerns. All EMR vendors that the group brings in or views via webex should follow that same demo script or there is no way to perform an ‘apples to apples’ comparison. I cannot stress enough the importance of the “HOW” of a system. I realize that gets down to the nitty gritty but in the end I am a true believer that the devil is in the details and those details can make or break an implementation. The investment and risk is too large for a group not to look into “how” that minimal functionality it accomplished. The stamp of approval from a certification group/committee does not ensure successful use nor implementation of the system.

    — Rena’

  • Thanks Rena. I think you’re additional explanation will be helpful for many who read this. The devil is definitely in the details.

  • John,

    I also agree with Rena comments, but believe the subject of
    ‘Minimal EMR functionality’ is an impossible task. Most Physicians I have dealt with over the years practice medicine differently. Same as lawyers, executive management, etc.

    I don’t believe there is a need to certify functionality. Certify interoperability, but not how the Physician should be using the EMR. How an EMR should function, should be left to the buyers of the EMR. This will lead to more innovation and producivity gains for Physicians.

    Dennis N.

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