News and Commentary

EMRs Fall Short Of Docs’ Expectations

Although the idea that electronic medical records (EMRs) can help improve coordination of patient care is touted by policymakers, the reality is that they are less than helpful. EMRs can help facilitate care coordination within a practice by making information available at the point of care, but they fall short when exchanging information across physician practices and care settings.

In a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change, clinicians identified many areas where both the design of EMRs might be altered, and office care processes modified, to improve EMRs’ support for tasks involved in coordinating patient care. The study was recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study points out that many commercial EMR designs are driven by clinical documentation needs that emphasize billing, rather than patient and provider needs related to clinical management.

They study, titled “Are Electronic Medical Records Helpful for Care Coordination? Experiences of Physician Practices,” is based on 60 interviews — 52 physicians and other staff at 26 small and medium-sized practices with commercial ambulatory EMRs in place for at least two years; chief medical officers at four EMR vendors; and four national thought leaders in health information technology implementation.