Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What To Expect When You Are Expecting

When starting down the EMR path, there are a number of things that you need to consider.

Technology has the ability to improve the way you practice and interact with your patients. Technology also has the ability to degrade your practice and your patient interaction. There are no one-size-fits-all models that works for everyone.

Implemented well, you will become very happy with your new EMR and the ways that it aids in your patient care. However, with a poorly implemented EMR, you will soon pine for the "good old days", except they will never come back.

It is important to start with an open mind, a willingness to continue to adapt your strategy until you find what works best for you and your patients, and a similar willingness to abandon strongly held convictions on how things should be done, when clearly they are not working.

When adopting an EMR, join your user community and learn from those that came before you. Talk with practitioners that are using other EMR products too, as they may be able to give you insights to how different systems perform similar tasks.

Ask "why?". Ask "how?". Keep asking until you are comfortable with the answers.

Be skeptical. Don't believe what your vendor tells you just because they sound convincing. Don't believe what the government is telling you just because they too sound convincing. Ask critical questions. Apply critical thought. If it doesn't make sense, keep asking questions until it does. Check your facts and get references.

Engineers love to use Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) just to confuse you. If you don't know what a WPA2-AES is, or why you would be a fool to move forward without using it, then ask. The same is true for hundreds of exotic sounding terms and TLAs associated with your new software. If your support team can't or won't explain plainly and simply the technology, then get a new support team.

You use technology everyday. Your mobile phone - lots of technology there. The cash machine in front of your bank - never read that user manual. Watching Star Trek parodies on YouTube - brought to you by 100 million lines of complex software. Everyday you are immersed in astounding complexity, however you've learned to live with it, to turn the utterly magical into the simply benign.

An EMR is an incredibly complex piece of industrial infrastructure. This complexity is why Health Canada and other national regulators have identified EMRs as Class II Medical Devices. These systems have come a long way from being just a replacement to your weekly shipment of paper.

After deploying an EMR in your practice you and your staff will go through a complex transformation from the old world to the new world. Many of your colleagues have already made the transition and many more are about to embark on the same journey as you.

You will be successful in modernizing your clinic if you take your time, move methodically, and remember to breathe.

Breathe, and continue to ask "why?".

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