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Problems with your hospital’s EMR? Try a little creative thinking

Published in the June 2005 issue of Today's Hospitalist

With all the attention electronic medical records (EMR) systems have been receiving lately, I was intrigued by the story of the resident who built a better mousetrap.

The tale will be familiar to anyone who has worked in the inpatient setting. His hospital used EMR software, but it wasn’t much of a system. To prepare for rounds, the resident had to gather information from three different EMR systems and copy it by hand to create a rounding summary.

His solution? He created a program to automatically gather patient information from the different systems. He could then easily print out a rounding summary and share it with other housestaff. (For more on his story, see this issue's "What Works.")

The resident’s tale may be just one example of how EMR software doesn’t always live up to its potential, but it underscores some of the hurdles that hospitals will face as they join the information technology revolution.

The federal government, for example, is pushing for the computerization of interoperable health record systems to be implemented within 10 years. But a recent report found that only about 2 percent reported that they had a “complete” electronic medical records system in place.

As the resident in our story discovered, much of what currently passes for “systems” is nothing more than a patchwork of programs that may or may not work together.

But what I think makes this story so interesting—and so applicable to hospitalists—is that it illustrates how a little physician ingenuity can go a long way when it comes to EMR systems. It’s exactly that kind of creative thinking from inpatient physicians that hospitals will need to successfully integrate information technology.

Edward Doyle
Editor and Publisher

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