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Build a Better EMR

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For all the good they promise for health care, electronic medical records (EMRs) have yet to demonstrate a profound impact on patient safety. Health care providers who resist or merely tolerate paperless systems are unlikely to capitalize on secondary components that could alert them to hidden risks. But even for clinicians who embrace their EMR, the benefit of reducing errors, and by extension patient harm, remains elusive. Nevertheless, patient safety experts see enormous potential in both the point-of-care opportunities for avoiding errors and the broader value of data aggregated from appropriately designed systems.




Today, the EMR that some envision may be mere fantasy, but physicians, patient safety experts, and patients need to put forward ideas that will enable designers to meet that potential. Ideally, an EMR should help the clinician in the office or at the bedside focus on the immediate concern while keeping him or her fully apprised of the patient’s history. And rather than dictate the diagnostic process or care plan, an EMR should support the clinician’s decision-making:

  • linking to evidence-based guidelines and protocols
  • identifying potential risks
  • ensuring that critical patient information is communicated, received, and acted upon

Behind the scenes, an EMR designed to reduce the risk of patient harm should enable health care leaders and researchers to mine the database for trends that signal the need for education, training, or systems adjustments.

Certainly that is a tall order. Commercial vendors need to see a return on investment; providers want ease of use; and, more and more, patients expect to be engaged with both their physician and their medical information. CRICO and its constituents have stepped up the challenge through a provocative video and a series of demonstration projects currently underway that should influence this evolving technology. But we expect that the best ideas will come from everyday EMR users who want a better EMR in their future.

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February 27, 2013
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