Types of EMR Reporting

Guest Post: Carl Bergman of SilverSoft, Inc. is a principal of EHRSelector.com.

My wife and I play a game called Write Only Files. The only rule is who’s first to notice that something’s been stored never to be retrieved. They come in all sorts of places. I once visited a nursing home that dutifully kept all the residents jewelry in a closet, but without any IDs. It didn’t matter; the owners never came back to claim them.

EMRs are not as dismal, but sometimes I think all we talk about is how to put data in an EMR without dealing with how to get it out. You’d think that the entire function of an EMR is to put in and retrieve single patient records.

Yet, a versatile, intuitive reporting system is absolutely necessary. Not only can it answer questions that paper systems cannot approach, but it also can produce insights into both medical and financial issues fundamental to a practice.

Stage 1 has changed some of this by requiring reporting on populations, not just retrieving single patient records. To deal with this, vendors have put on a full court press to modify their systems for Stage 1 reports. Their efforts, which often required new capacities, point out how neglected EMR report writers have been.

The need for more sophisticated and user oriented report writers is only going to increase. Stage 2, ACOs and other HIE initiatives will make even greater demands not to mention increased use of EMRs.

These external demands will be complimented by user demands for more information about the practice both medically and financially. Meeting these demands are a mixed bag of current systems. Some products will grow into these new roles while other vendors will need to rethink their approach or fail.

Current EMR report writers fall into three basic groups, of which only one can fulfill their role. These are:

•      Wired Reports. These EMRs don’t have a real report writer; instead, they have single purpose “push button” reports for specific purposes. Users have little or no control over what they find or present. A typical report might show no show patients for a day.

•      Parameter Reports. A step up from wired reports, these allow users a fair degree of control over what the report finds and some control over formatting. For example, the user may choose sorting order. These are often built in a tools such as Crystal Reports. Depending on the development effort, the result may be a robust tool. However, the use of third part tool can have major drawbacks. These include:

     o   Rigidity. Modifying a report may require an on site programmer or paying the vendor

     o   Cost. The user often has to pay for the tool, its annual license and maintenance. If there are problems, the user may be caught between the EMR vendor and the tool vendor.

     o   Conflicts. These tools are generalized applications designed to work on many different systems not just the particular EMR. Problems can range from not having the desired function to the tool ending support for the application type.

     o   Learning Curve. Users will have to master both the EMR and the tool’s way of doing things.

•      Built In Report Writers. These are designed as an integral portion of the system. These overcome the problems of the other two classes; assuming they are built to meet a variety of reporting tasks. Even if a report writer can carry find and sort the desired data, it must also meet other requirements. For example, if the FDA issued a bulletin requiring practices to notify all their patients who have Crohns disease and take acetaminophen. The report writer should be able to identify these patients, email or prepare letters to them.

Even if an EMR has a crackerjack system, its mission can still fail if it does not have access to all practice financial data. Systems with a single database can do this. Those that link or coordinate the EMR database and the practice management db have a harder, but possible task. Those systems that have separate, uncoordinated, datatbases are out of luck regardless of how good the individual report writers may be. If a report writer can’t cross the EMR and PM line, it is not taking full advantage of practice data. Each time it can’t produce the needed reports it’s creating write only files for my collection.

About the author

Carl Bergman

Carl Bergman

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of EHRSelector.com.For the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manager doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst, a role he recently repeated for a Council member.


  • Carl,

    Very nicely written article. I think this is one of the main reasons wide scale adoption of EMR systems have been much slower than expected.

    Another solution:

    We offers physicians and medical administrators the necessary flexibility and speed of a traditional paper form with the electronic data capacity of an Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Unlike the clunky interface of an electronic medical record (EMR), M-Scribe allows physicians to verbally dictate while capturing the information in an electronic format. Instead of having to engage with a complex electronic interface, physicians can do what they do best while still keeping that information all in one easily accessible place.

    To know more about it- please visit my blog:


  • Loved the “Types of EMR Reporting” as well as the “101 Tips to Make…” and reference to integrated billing. Reminds me of the “Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” in Arizona. Supposedly the largest gold vein in America which was once found–probably by a technology person–who failed to allow access by others. Pun intended. He turned ill and never successfully shared the ‘map’. Today’s systems often collect the largest vein of data on patients, but make flexible access to that data difficult. Only systems that are built around one integrated billing/client database with a built in graphical, truly ‘user friendly’ reporting system allowing authorized access to that data as needed will avoid the “Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine” syndrome.

Click here to post a comment