The EMR debate rolls on

The promise of Electronic Medical Records: streamlined, simplified healthcare without the hassle of paper--a program that combines virtually all of a practice's chores into one easy-to-use system. Ten years ago, we though that most healthcare providers would have made EMRs part of their daily lives by now. But as we all know, the movement is just getting started now rather than being well under way. A recent Harris Interactive poll found that only 17 percent of primary care docs use EMRs. Why the slow uptake? Cost has been a major barrier. At $16,000 to $36,000 per physician, medical practices cringe at the thought of implementing a system. And let's not even mention the hassle of switching paper records over to digital ones. But yet another barrier stands in the way. "Unless an [EMR] changes your workflow and your daily habits, it is not working. It is not just something you plug in to mimic what you are currently doing," notes Roland Goertz, M.D., president of McLennan County Medical Education and Research Foundation. EMRs aren't just a digital way to do what has always been done on paper; Rather, their use will change the very structure of a physician's daily workflow.

Whether you love them or loath them, the fact is that EMRs will only become more popular in the years ahead. In the long run, they'll simplify physicians lives--if they can just get over the hurdle of paying for and implementing them. Docs who use the systems have been impressed with the level of care EMRs help them provide. "It's like a stethoscope of the future. It allows you to hear things you never heard before and see things you never saw before," notes one doctor.

For all the pros and cons of EMRs:
- read this article from the Texas Academy of Family Physicians