EHRs too cumbersome for eye docs

An information technology committee organized by the American Academy of Ophthalmology this week released a list of special requirements to help electronic health record (EHR) systems be used more "intuitively and efficiently" by ophthalmology practices.

In a report now available online in the journal Ophthalmology and forthcoming in the Aug. 1 issue, AAO committee members note that many EHRs currently used by ophthalmologists are "large, comprehensive systems that originally were designed for other medical specialties or large enterprises," such as hospitals or health plans. As such, the systems pay little attention to the needs of ophthalmologists.

The paper includes a list of 17 "essential" and six "desirable" features in the areas of clinical documentation, ophthalmic vital signs and laboratory studies, medical and surgical management, and ophthalmic measurement and imaging devices. The guidelines are intended to be used by ophthalmologists and staffs to help identify important features when searching for EHR systems.

"Our recommendations define what will make a system work efficiently within the unique workflow and data management needs of an ophthalmology practice," said Michael Chiang, the study's lead author and IT committee head for the departments of Ophthalmology & Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University.

The recommendations on how an EHR system can accommodate certain areas of ophthalmic practice, include:

  • Supporting documentation in, and transitions between, the office and operating room.
  • Capturing, tracking and displaying "vital signs of the eye," such as visual acuity.
  • Incorporating hand-drawn sketches or annotations into records.

EHR vendors will be asked to respond as to how their systems match up against the list of essential and desirable features. Information detailing these vendors' responses will be provided to AAO members in the future.

For more information:
- see the study asbstract
- view the AAO announcement