The passage of the HITECH Stimulus act made one thing clear: Electronic Medical Records are the future of healthcare. Whether physicians like it or not, they will have to adopt an EMR system, probably sooner rather than later. Moving to EMR will bring many benefits to any practice. However, there are also a few drawback associated with EMR systems. Physicians should choose a reliable, low-risk EMR that will let them see patients when Murphy’s Law rears its ugly head.
Paper charts are almost foolproof. Short of losing the chart itself, a physicians can usually see patients without too many problems. Despite their simplicity and reliability, paper charts have many shortcomings. They are almost impossible to backup; they make information sharing cumbersome, and they can be difficult to read with handwritten notes.
EMRs have a plethora of advantages over paper charts in terms of functionality and efficiency. Despite these benefits, the trade-off lies in simplicity and reliability. EMRs require computers, and in some cases, local networks, databases, servers, and internet connections. Murphy’s law states that “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” As anyone who uses computers knows, bad things can happen on a regular basis. Computers and servers crash, the power goes out, databases get corrupted, and the internet connection goes down just when you need it.
Murphy’s Law can wreak havoc with your practice. Many complicated EMR systems using ASP or client-server architecture rely on databases and internet connections. If these components fail, how will you see patients? Unlike paper charts, many EMR systems have single points of failure. If something important, like your internet connection, goes down then the entire system will fail.
The answer is not to avoid purchasing an EMR, that would be like walking rather than risking flat tire in your car. The answer is to buy a simple, robust EMR that doesn’t rely on single points of failure, like internet connections or databases. Consider purchasing a standalone EMR that can run entirely on a single computer. Standalone systems offer the simplicity of web-based EMRs, but don’t require internet connections. Standalone systems can give you all the functionality of a client-server EMR, but without clunky databases that are prone to crash.
Anyone who has experienced computer problems knows how frustrating they can be. In addition to frustrating your staff, computer problems can damage your reputation. What would happen if you have to send home a waiting room full of patients because your EMR went down? Don’t risk your practice on a complicated EMR; remember Murphy comes calling when you least expect him. Chose a system that is simple, reliable, and efficient.