EMR Med Reconciliation Works, But Doesn’t Come Easy

Posted on August 19, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Medication reconciliation is a complex process which could always stand to be improved — so how about leveraging your EMR?

Editor Maria Durben Hirsch of FierceEMR recently talked with a handful of health IT execs about how it’s working out to use EMRs as part of their med reconciliation process, and learned that while health leaders are enthusiastic about med reconciliation in the EMR, they’re still working out kinks in the process.

Health IT leaders do seem enthusiastic about the possibilities for using EMR med functions.

For example, Texas Health Resources, a 25-hospital health system in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, has found that using EMRs improves the accuracy of the process by providing tools to capture the patient’s previous med history, better managing new med orders and generating instructions for patients, CMIO Ferdinand Velasco, MD, told FEMR.

And at Naperville, Ill.-based Edward Hospital,  staff are happily using a “pretty robust” functionality for med reconciliation, CIO Bobbie Byrne told Durben Hirsch. Their EMR offers several useful features , including a home medication list, tools to convert meds to inpatient orders or provide substitutions, and features to continue meds after discharge and generate prescriptions.

But there are still issues with using this technology, Byrne told FEMR.  For one thing, she notes, a transaction that takes no time at all in a physician’s mind takes longer, and is more complicated. What’s more, med reconciliation itself is more difficult these days, given that many patients have chronic diseases and are on 10 to 15 meds before coming to the hospital.

And Mary Beth Mitchell, chief nursing information officer at Texas Health Resources, points out that the EMR-based med reconciliation process requires patience and thoroughness: “This process is dependent on the nurse or physician going to the medication reconciliation activity and identifying the current status of each med, every time the patient moves throughout the system,” she told Durben Hirsch.

The bottom line seems to be that while EMRs have made a lot of progress in the med reconciliation arena, few if any EMRs offer the simple process we all know it should be. Getting medication reconciliation right is critical, though. Let’s hope vendors get the kinks out soon.