Electronic medical records and usability affect implementation

by Mark Hendrickson

One sport that really bothers me is Major League Baseball. Why? It seems as though the hard-headed people calling the shots, and games for that matter, would rather keep their pride than make the right call.

Instant replay is no secret. It isn’t a new, untested technology—its been around since the mid 50’s and every professional sports league uses it with game-changing results, except the MLB. This has annoyed me for awhile now, but not enough to actually bother me until Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers was robbed of a perfect game due to an umpire’s (admitted) error. This feat has only been done twenty times in the history of the league. A man’s legacy was taken from him simply due to the MLB opting not to use the technology it has available. Sure, baseball is only a game, but what if lives were at stake rather than legacies?

Which brings the question: Is healthcare utilizing all the technology available? Why are there rooms of paper health records when they could be stored on servers the size of a refrigerator or even a deck of cards? Why are doctors carrying around stacks of papers when there are tablet computers the size of a notebook that could put those entire previously mentioned rooms at their fingertips? Why does it seem like you have more technology in your pocket than there is in the exam room?

Although there is no definite answer to these questions, I believe it all boils down to one word: usability.

Many clinicians are resisting the implementation of electronic medical records and other forward-thinking technologies because they dislike change, and technology for that matter. This is likely because the technology that is being imposed on them is difficult to use, or doesn’t feel natural to them.

The benefits of implementing EMR systems are exponential, but I’ll save that for another post. First and foremost we need to get the clinicians who will be using them to accept them. Healthcare software should be designed so that it is flexible enough to accomplish all the necessary tasks, yet intuitive enough so that even a veteran physician can navigate it easily and enjoy doing so.

Clinicians and executives, please keep an open mind about taking the leap into this new digital era. Electronic medical records will be to healthcare what instant replay is to professional sports—essential. Do you want your hospital to be like the MLB?

Mark Hendrickson is an intern at HealthFinch.

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