Archive Hot Technology 2017

Have You Checked Out EMRs Lately?

Today's systems are more useful — and more user-friendly — than ever.

Diane Stopyra

Diane Stopyra


accuracy of charting DULY NOTED Customizable interfaces improve the efficiency and accuracy of charting cases on a variety of screens.

Three years ago, when the St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, Mich., went live with its new EMR system, the nurses nearly revolted. "We all protested," says Pamela Borello-Barnett, BS, RN, CNOR, CSSM, LNC, CNM, the hospital's clinical nurse manager of perioperative services and sterile processing. "We thought, How can this possibly be easier than paper?"

Their concerns were understandable. EMR technology has been plagued by complaints about less-than-intuitive interfaces and too-rigid design configurations. In some cases, the technology has developed a rap for interfering with — rather than enabling — quality care. But design configurations have gotten less rigid and user interfaces have become more intuitive. In fact, many recent EMR users say going paperless has improved their workflow, documentation efficiencies and patient safety. Count the initially resistant staff at St. John Macomb-Oakland among the converted. "Even the most die-hard holdouts among us agree that we never want to go back to paper," says Ms. Borello-Barnett.

Designed with users in mind
Improved interfaces mean EMR systems are allowing for computer-guided workflow. Think chronological views of a patient's record, swipe-through options that limit the need for scrolling and drag-and-drop options that limit the need for clicking. In other words, interfaces are increasingly built to feel like a commercial app. And they're increasingly built to work on familiar screens, like a tablet or smartphone. Some are cloud-based, meaning your data is safe in the event of a server breakdown.

This increased usability allows for greater customization. For example, the latest platforms provide more flexibility when creating a user dictionary, which determines how information is categorized and stored. Additionally, when looking at data in a spreadsheet, users are increasingly able to adjust column heights and widths to their preference.

During documentation, exam fields are automatically filled, using info gathered during patient registration. Some stats (like vital signs) don't need to be gathered at all; they can be downloaded automatically from patient monitors that interface wirelessly with newer EMR systems. Systems are even programmed to remember a clinician's exact and preferred wording for things like dosing and treatment instructions.

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