EMRs, EMRs and more EMRs

Sure, EMRs have been a hot idea for quite some time. But now that federal and state legislators have made electronic data sharing their pet project--something which implies a pretty robust EMR installation base out there--there's been nothing less than an explosion. Sure, market leaders like Cerner, McKesson, GE and Epic will be there, but also lots of folks you've never met before. The problem is, the ways they define "electronic patient record" vary so widely that it's hard to tell, sometimes, that they're claiming to solve the same problem. So you're going to have your hands full sorting them out. of course, each of them claim to have the "real" EMR model in their possession, too.

On the show floor, there's interesting entries like Catalis, which offers CCHIT-certified "graphical patient record" software for primary use on a wireless tablet PC. Others, like Axolotl, offer health information exchange-focused products with EMR capabilities. There's enterprise software vendors like Allscripts, for which EMR functionality is just one element in a broad clinical data automation strategy. Then there's products like CSW's CaseNotes, which proposes to integrate existing data and help document care without actually calling themselves EMR vendors. And what about vendors like 3SG Corp., which seems to focus primarily helping you with EMR-related document conversions. It's enough to give you a two-Motrin headache.

Sure, some of you will want to pick and choose best-of-breed tools among these various vendors, and assemble your own clinical data management solution. (If you attend case study-based educational sessions, you'll find that this is what many of your peers are doing.) But if you think of an EMR as an organic whole, a solution which brings together everything you need to replace and improve on paper records, you're not going to find many options. The ones that come closest are crazy expensive, too. All told, expect to find more confusion than answers.