Improved EMR Usability Improves Care

Rich Metzger
When I started as a practice manager it was immediately clear the office had exemplary compassionate care for all of their patients. The office had experienced a conversion to a new EMR and it was the most talked about topic in the office, even though the system was in use for almost 6 years.  The office was an early adopter of EMR nearly 15 years before the new system and one of the physicians also acted as the IT department.  
When the practice was sold to the local hospital’s medical group, support was provided by the hospital IT team and the practice was used as the pilot site to implement electronic documentation.  Through all the stories, I deciphered that training was poor, the system wasn’t configured in an ideal way, and since the practice had already used an EMR it was assumed the transition would be easy.  While the staff and clinicians mostly managed to get through the day, even after 6 years on the new EMR there were still things they didn’t know how to do through the EMR or would use alternate methods to accomplish the same task because something didn’t work as expected. 
It frustrated me to see the staff’s frustrations and the impact it had on them being able to care for our patients. After sitting with each of the staff members and learning more about the frustrations they faced with the system, I signed up for another training on the EMR and took my questions and complaints.  Together with the IT team that provided training, we identified areas that needed retraining and learned that some of the items that were “broken” had been fixed in recent updates but not communicated to the staff.  
I took the information back to the staff, sat with each of them again to retrain or show them new functionality, and later worked with the IT team to develop a release newsletter that would be distributed to the offices for each upgrade.  After several weeks, the talk of the office shifted away from the EMR and focused more largely on how to better care for patients.  Showing the staff the same compassion and care they showed their patients about their problems had an unbelievable impact on the morale of the office and even improved patient survey scores by 20%!  
About a year later I ended up joining the IT team that supported the medical group practices and together we created user groups, more open communication channels, and revamped the training program to better serve all of the staff in the growing medical group so the EMR assisted in providing great care for all of our patients.  The experience completely shifted my career path and helped me develop a love for healthcare IT and the impact it can have on so many people.