Thank you for writing about the transition to electronic medical records (EMR) in your Jan. 7 issue (“Top of the Charts”). I was disappointed that, in your otherwise extensive coverage of the local challenges, you failed to mention or have any discussions with me or my colleagues at Eureka Family Practice.
Not only are we the oldest medical group practice in Humboldt County, but we are also the first to implement a fully functioning EMR. We have been “electronic” for over six years now. We made the transition at considerable personal expense because we knew it was the right thing to do for our patients and for our practice. The quality of our medical records — in terms of accuracy, completeness and timeliness — has increased dramatically since we stopped using paper charts. Further, we are actively participating in a nationwide project involving hundreds of practices that share the same EMR program, comparing our outcomes across practices as well as comparing us to national standards.
While I agree that implementing an EMR is difficult, I can emphatically state that at this stage the EMR makes our daily work lives easier, allows us to provide more timely and appropriate care to our patients and unequivocally improves quality. The critical step for providers (aside from purchasing and using a robust software package) is to embrace the technology. If a provider is unwilling to change work habits, or is unwilling to utilize the tools built into the system (e.g., tracking necessary preventive services, keeping medication lists up to date and allowing the software to check for drug interactions, to mention but a few of the capabilities of EMR), then the provider clearly ought to stick with paper.
An EMR is only a tool, and is only as good as its end user will allow it to be. Personally, I cannot imagine practicing without it.
Leo Leer, M.D., Eureka
Sweet Spot: For once, the informative edges out the amusing. Dr. Leo Leer wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.