Swimming in Too Much EMR Data

I don’t know about you, but the long holiday weekend was far too short for me. The majority of my family’s time was spent kicking off summer at various pools (with the appropriate sunblock, of course). Pools and swimming are somewhat second nature to me. The smell of chlorine takes me back to my high school and early college days of year round swim team, coaching summer swim league and sitting in a lifeguard chair in the brutal heat, whistle dangling around my neck.

As we gear up for my oldest daughter’s first summer swim meet this week (picking the appropriate swim cap, finding those goggles that fit just right and painting our toes the appropriate team color), I’m hoping that she’ll come to love the sights, sounds and smells of the pool as well. She certainly seemed to enjoy herself at one of the Memorial Day weekend pool parties we attended.

One family affair in particular found me wading into a conversation about Salesforce.com. Turns out a soon-to-be new member of the family works for the company, and I told him that, as part of my day job, I had been dabbling in using it. He quickly asked me about my likes and dislikes, at which point his fiancé chimed in with the lament that yes, Salesforce is an awesome tool, but more often than not, sales team do not have the time (and in some cases the inclination or training) to fully make use of all its bells and whistles.

I pondered her statement a bit further as I watched my daughter practice swimming with her new flippers, and realized that those of us that use SaaS (software as a service) technologies – like electronic medical records – tend to have the same complaint. Bells and whistles are great, but if I never have the time to learn to use them effectively to accomplish goals specific to my tasks, then I’m not going to use them at all. And I’m never going to pay much attention to the constant updates and add-ons these sorts of technologies usually come with.

I wonder if some EMR end-users feel the same way. They love the idea behind the technology, and certainly the government incentives that typically come along with using it, but after implementation find themselves with only enough time to utilize the EMR’s basic functions. I’d assume this might be a bigger problem for private practice physicians than for those working within a hospital.

I’m certainly not the first to ponder the relationship between Salesforce and EMRs. Our fearless leader John Lynn wrote about Practice Fusion building a personal health record on top of Salesforce way back in 2009, seemingly not long after Salesforce invested in the HIT company.

What I’m talking about, however, is the amount of time and energy required to truly take advantage of the vast oceans of meaningful data that can be culled from an EMR. Big data is great. Lord knows we’ve all been convinced of the value of that and the business intelligence tools that help us decipher it. I’d be interested to hear from doctors that have pondered the same thing. Are providers swimming in too much EMR information? Are they faced with more than they could ever possibly utilize? Does it come down to user experience and user-centric design?

Let me know what you think in the comments below. In the meantime, I’ll be helping my daughter perfect her backstroke.

About the author

Jennifer Dennard

Jennifer Dennard

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.


  • Jennifer,
    Many thanks for this. I think you must’ve lifted your metaphor straight from our company…”drowning in an ocean of data?” I’m not going to give you a pitch, but the entire reason we developed our product, PopulationManager, is to help docs, who have no time, better manage their patients and make sense of all that EHR data. Unfreeze it, make it fresh and simple to grasp. Fast. Actionable. Big data? We think small data’s better.
    Again, thanks for this.

  • EMR Hell is probably what doctors think of it. Private practice physicians in particular.

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