Crazy EMR functions as selling points

When are you asking for too much nonsense in an EMR system?  Are you being fed a load of jellybeans by an EMR vendor about what theirs can do?

An Ob/Gyn’s practice manager recently called to speak with Ken, my practice manager, about functions of our EMR, Practice Fusion.  She had a rather specific question during the conversation that sparked scratches of heads and raisings of eyebrows in our office. “But will your EMR system allow searches of office notes by keywords?” she asked.  She said she wanted to have this function in order to quickly look up an old office note in which she might remember having a conversation with a patient about something specific and need to quickly find it. That seemed cool and interesting, especially since some email systems, including Gmail, allow one to do this easily.

However, there was also something weird about this question. I have only very rarely thought to myself, “Now which patient did I see that I spoke to about something specific?”  I did this a month ago when I remembered a patient who was an IT consultant being treated for Grave’s disease.  I was able to find his note in about a minute by searching my EMR system for patients I had seen recently with an ICD-9 diagnosis code for Grave disease.  Practice Fusion lets you do this easily.

But who put this in her mind as an essential feature for an EMR system? Was it perhaps an EMR vendor? Did they tell her, “Well this is an excellent function that our system can do that many other systems can’t. Be sure to ask other vendors if their systems can do this.” Maybe I am wrong and this is not how this strange desire of hers ended up coming into being, maybe she just wanted it all on her own, but Ken and I wondered if a vendor wasn’t involved.

My opinion of such a function is that it seems pretty superfluous unless you have a specific need for it that occurs all the time. My little anecdote about the IT consultant that I ended up searching for by other means only happens very rarely in my practice. And so my long-winded recommendation for this post would be don’t get sold on systems based on gimmicks. Think about what you really need rather than the vendor wants you to sell you on.

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009.  He can be reached at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

About the author

Dr. Michael West

Dr. Michael West

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

2 Comments

  • Reading this brought a smile to my face. For years I have heard such superfluous demands. Some doctors want their software to do everything for them – even pay their taxes

    On one instance a doctor asked me why don’t I enable a full free text search across the EMR and the practice management modules … which would include searching across his billing and inventory modules besides his patient records… Apparently he had read these keywords on the brochure of a database vendor and was adamant we provide this feature to him 🙂

    That being said, I do feel engineers/implementors must learn to understand why these demands are made. Sometimes its a whim, but at other times doctors just ask for things because they are trying to fulfill a need which we are not aware of.
    Explaining the issue and taking the doctors forward towards a successful implementation requires one to learn to successfully make the doctors either give up such crazy demands, or figure out that there is some unknown problem that the doctor may be trying to solve.

  • Yes, it would be nice to know why a doctor thinks he or she needs a certain function that seems nonessential. Given that bloated EMR systems can run upwards of $50,000 just to start with, I sometimes think doctors aren’t thinking hard enough about what they are asking for.

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