Will An EMR Provide Better Patient Care?

This week when I was at the AAFP conference in Denver, I had a doctor say “Will an EMR system help me to provide better patient care than my current paper charts?”

I’ll save his personal feeling and my thoughts on the question for a follow up post later this week. For now, I’ll leave it open for discussion in the comments. I think this will be a lively comment section. I’ll preview my answer by saying that I think the question is partially framed the wrong way.

What do you think?

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.


  • I think a ‘good’ and practical EMR is quintessential in Providing better care over the paper method. In addition to the obvious reasons: no filing, no lost charts, no spelling errors, clearer writing, it has many other great benefits such as: automated reminders of F/U, Visual graphs on progress (vitals, blood work, etc.) and minimization of medication error. There are a few minor bad caveats, but with technology these will become minimized and obsolete. Any smart healthcare provider who even ask the question is stuck in ‘old school’ mentality and afraid of any changes. And NO – you don’t need to go all out and get a system for $100,000. There are MANY cheap alternatives.

  • None of the 6-7 that I have used. Shai, are you a doctor?

    (I am a tech enthusiast, not old school in the least, and there is evidence to show curent EMRs do not improve care of patients.)

  • If the EHR is better aligned to the needs of the physician than old paper charts, then yes, an EHR can help to provide better patient care.

    In my work with Ingenix, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several, successful EHR users. In http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYXQRA3zgqM this video we interviewed Dr. Pablo Rodriguez of Women’s Care in Rhode Island. We spoke with him on an evening last summer when hosted a meeting for local doctors, where he shared how his EHR helps him “be a better doctor,” save time and reduce the costs of managing his practice.

  • Shai,
    Do these really improve patient care: no filing, no lost charts, no spelling errors? Or do they just improve the speed of care and heartache of the doctor? Both important and valuable things, but does that really improve the care that a patient gets?

    Let’s hear the evidence.

  • http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/170/17/1578

    They had to stop this study due to patient harm from CPOE.

    Another study showed increased mortality after a hospital instituted an EMR. I will find the link.

    Obviously some EMRs are better than others. My experience is with hospital EMR as implemented in the emergency department, an area where EMRs as they currently exist are poorly suited to our workflow.

    As with many things, wel meaning but misinformed people provide a thoughtless solution without having the experience to understand the ramifications.

  • There’s definitely an incredibly strong case to be made for specific EMR software designed for ED and other specialties. One size fits all in those cases often means one size doesn’t fit any.

  • Hi John,
    I am no Doctor but a Technologist and have been in the EHR/HIE/PHR space for a while.
    Does an EMR provide better patient care – absolutely not!
    But will it if used appropriately – Definitely Yes.
    On the long run,
    1. EHR will provide patient history(labs/meds/vitals etc) which I believe are keys in the decision making process
    2. Allows the doctor to get better organized, saving time means more time for the doc with the Patient.
    3. Having an EHR allows for PHR which means Patients have access to their record and the simple fact that Patient have got to start taking care of themselves. med, appointment reminders save valuable time and money downstream.
    n. and allow for HIE integrations. Which means accessibility for emergencies and analytics for diseases, drugs, allergies, bio-surveillence, safety etc

    Now overall, lesser Patients contradicts the whole doctors/pharmas paradigm!!!!! Ultimately lawyers and politicians as well – hehe

    Balance is the key to everything right. Time/Cost/Quality in Healthcare are key issues today and an EHR would help a Doctor (+ their intelligent diagnosis) provide “better care”

  • “Will and EMR provide better patient care?”

    No … EMR (EHR) doesn’t practice medicine. EHR’s must make each member of the clinical care team more effective. An EHR can’t focus on delivering support to physicians … but load up the work on nurses and make their work less effective.

    EHR must be a ‘force multiplier’ … in all ways and for all practitioners. Most EHRs today are built to help the statisticians grade the work.

  • DonB,
    So, it sounds like you’re not an emphatic NO. You’re more of an it could, but not the way they’re designed right now.

  • interesting conversation.
    the electronic medical record ideally will provide better care if used to it fullest extent. let us discuss how to define better care.
    doctor’s perspective better care is when a is seen patient, in a timely manner, patient’s concern are addressed in an effective, scientifically proven manner, affordable to patient, provide a fairly decent living. does emr help you find the patient’s chart, prevent filing errors and prevent spelling mistakes? no it does not. I am sure every one is aware of garbage in garbage out. does it provide care in timely fashion? “they say ” once we get proficient in using emr program it only increases the time to see a patient by three minutes. really?
    I see 40 patients a day that is 2 extra hours, not taking in account the hospital rounds and CPOE for them and make a mistake and you don’t realize that you have lost 15 minutes. arguments are made so see less patients, as if that is possible.
    from patient’s perspective good care is when patients needs are met by a caring, engaged physician who provides an effective, evidence based care that is cost effective.
    more and more patients complain that doctor is busy looking at computer screen rather engaging with patients.
    I cannot find any broad study that looks at emr in primary care medicine along various parameters over an extended period of time.
    yes emr has to be part of discussion, all new graduates should use emrs but having the old dog learn new trick in the environment of limited time (there are only 24 hours in a day) and shrinking health care dollars, expecting emrs to be the solution to improving care for patients is not only fool hardy but dangerous.

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