Are Doctors Creating Useful Charts In Your EMR, Or Phoning It In?

Posted on October 27, 2011 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or

Folks, tonight I hope to nudge everyone who reads this to realize that they’ve got a problem to solve. The problem: How you’ll get doctors interested in using that pretty EMR you bought. I mean fully use, not just do the minimum, to the point where your institution can do something with the data.

As readers know, data collection requirements are mounting as Meaningful Use requirements phase in.  And patients will get more chances to review that data over time.  You want the e-charts not only to provide a basis for good care, but also meet regulatory requirements, participate in health plan programs and even offer consumers a nice glimpse of reality through soon-to-emerge patient portals.

The thing is, here at HospitalEMRandEHR, we’re hearing increasing noise about doctors who, under tremendous stress, are essentially cutting  and pasting background info into templates.  This is a Bad Thing. Data paired with observations in text areas produces a meaningful package; data packaged with boilerplate language may translate into pages of almost worthless content.

You know, even if your doctors aren’t offering as much context on patients as they used to, the charting they do may be good enough to scrape by and get MU incentives paid to you.  The doctors may still provide enough information to convey the sense of what they did to others, and follow up too.

That being said, it just doesn’t make sense to accept the bare minimum when you’ve spent so much, and ultimately, hope to see clinical improvement as one of the payoffs from your EMR investment. So, bear in mind that you don’t just have to win over physicians to tolerating EMRs — you’d better be sure they’re willing to adapt to EMRs culturally, which means that they figure out how to produce value in an EMR-based record.

If you’re thinking “Hey, I’m not sure how to do that myself,” then figure it out, hopefully after having good talks with thought leaders on your medical staff. Create some standards for creating a rich EMR record and encourage physicians to support their colleagues in creating them.  After all, the last thing you want is to demand one more thing from your doctors if you’re not sure yourself what you want.