What physicians must remember when considering an EMR

When considering something as operationally and administratively critical as an EMR, no detail is too small for consideration. Apart from cost, implementation, downtime, level of technology and staff bandwidth a physician must–unequivocally– consider how his or her patients will engage with this, the next frontier of medical records.

Because of the way information is shared, today’s healthcare system necessitates a new amended intent for primary care physicians. Because of the interconnectedness of our society, medical practitioners must address the needs of today’s media savvy patients, patients who expect instant accessibility to their medical information, anytime day or night. With instant access to the world through Facebook, Twitter, email and text messages, gone are the days of normal office hours. By extension, “peer-to-peer” EMR content has rapidly faded into the background as physicians, including myself, search for ways to more effectively manage patient care in a way that enables patients to be their own best advocates.

As an independent primary care physician, my top priority is to provide care to my patients. Every day, my intention is to furnish my patients with the care and information they need to live healthy and productive lives. With the federal regulations attached to the HITECH Act, physicians are flocking to EMRs because it is the expected (and mandated) course of action. But I beg you, fellow physicians:  Remember your function. Remember your patients.

With the advancements and added benefits of the patient engagement tools offered by some EMRs, things like patient health records, remote consultations, shared medical libraries, even online appointment scheduling, doctors can look at the EMR purchase decision not just for the practice-facing benefits but also for the patient-facing benefits. By providing physicians with a platform that facilitates interactions with patients, we can help patients have more control over their own health and care.

Is it really all that surprising that in a time when we can all manage our bank accounts and home security systems from our phones that the onus is on us, physicians and business owners, to accommodate our patients’ wishes for greater access to not only their medical records but to their doctors? It’s a question that crosses my mind each day as I reflect on my profession.

Peter Weigel is an internal medicine physician who practices at Medical Associates of Westfield in Westfield New Jersey. 

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