To the Editor:
As a physician who recently reviewed over 25 electronic medical records systems before purchasing one, I think FPM’s recent survey [“Electronic Medical Records: The FPM Vendor Survey,” January 2001, page 45] missed some key points.
Features don’t necessarily equate to functionality in an EMR. Just because a product can do something doesn’t mean it can be done easily, or that it needs to be done at all. The authors themselves pointed out that this survey was not scientific, but I think more could have been made of the fact that it was based on vendor-reported details and not on analysis by physicians who are actually using these products.
A4 Health Systems, the vendor of my EMR, HealthMatics, must have responded conservatively and was in many ways misrepresented. In their case it was like trying to put a square peg into a round hole – the categories missed some of the attributes that led me to buy their system. I made my selection based not only on features but on how the vendor understood the physician office environment. Many EMRs boast a lot of bells and whistles, but all that really counts is the impact on workflow and the product’s ease of use.
I chose the HealthMatics EMR for the following reasons:
It has the ingredients to run a completely paperless office.
It uses a desktop that shows today’s schedule, the patients waiting and the presenting charts that have been pulled.
It has an option to search data.
It allows pre-defined dosages for medications.
It has customizable templates.
It has an intuitive evaluation and management (E/M) coding calculator that uses risk tables and rationalizes coding levels.
It tracks all changes made after a chart is signed off.
There’s a lot of technology out there gathering dust because it just can’t be used in real life. In order to properly rank EMRs, you should talk to physicians who are using the EMR you’re interested in, view a live demo and, as the authors said, use feature surveys only as a starting point.