It seems like I’ve covered EMR updates quite a bit before. However, I keep hearing more examples that are very good illustrations of the challenges associated with software updates to an EMR.
Today’s example has to do with a simple change to the template interface on an EMR. This was a small change in relation to the 116 pages of release notes/documentation that was provided with the update. All it did was make the Submit, Cancel and Reset buttons always appear at the bottom of the template. It’s kind of like freeze panes from Excel if you’ve ever used that.
This is a great feature if you’re filling out a long template and half way through you want to submit the template and come back later to finish it. Who would have ever expected that this would become a problem?
Well, turns out that the same template interface is used for doctors who are filling out templates and also for patients who are filling out templates when filling out their paperwork at check in (something we’ve loved doing for the past 4 years). The problem is that now that the Submit, Cancel, and Reset buttons always appear at the bottom, the patients don’t realize that the intake paperwork has more questions. Most of them don’t look at the scroll bar to see that they’ve only filled out a portion of the paperwork. So, the patient submits the paperwork half done. You can imagine how nice that is for a clinic.
I won’t go into how to resolve this issue. There are a ton of different options from educating the end user to requiring certain questions to getting our EMR vendor to change it back to the old way. However, the point of this isn’t how to fix it (maybe a topic for another post).
The point is that a minor change to your EMR software can have some really annoying unintended consequences in places you might not have ever considered.
Many might argue that this is a reason not to implement an EMR. However, that would only be looking at part of the story. I could list a dozen other features that were added during the update which improve how we care for patients.
So, is it painful when an update causes problems? Absolutely. Is this an important reason to have a tight relationship with your EMR vendor? Absolutely. Should you still update your EMR regularly? Absolutely. Is EMR still the future of healthcare? Absolutely.