You may be in the golden years of your medical career (if you have planned well and are financially secure enough to retire anytime soon), so should you get on the bandwagon and implement an EMR? This is a question that many physicians face as they near the end of their practice days. If you have a couple of years to go, should you make the effort? Why not just put your files into storage and deal with the requests for records on an as needed basis? Sounds simpler, right?
Actually nothing these days is simple and there are a number of compelling reasons to implement an EMR in your practice before retirement. (Note: these suggestions are most applicable to family practice, but some are equally applicable in specialist settings.)
- You will never find a new physician to take over your practice if you still have paper charts. It is not easy to find someone to take over a practice and I cannot remember the last time I heard of a medical practice being sold; however, with paper records, your chances are zero. So get ready to try and transfer as many patients as possible and accept that a significant number are not going to find a new physician.
- Chart storage is expensive and it is a significant amount of effort to find, package, and send out charts as they are requested. If you decide to go down this pathway, there are a number of companies that provide chart storage and will scan your paper records for easier retrieval. Click here for the list of companies in the CanadianEMR Resource Directory.
- Patient safety: over many years, one accumulates a great deal of information, reports, lab results, etc. Implementing an EMR is a very good opportunity to summarize the face sheet in your charts and do a careful review of your patients before entering the data into the EMR. While this process generally happens during the yearly physical, there are patients that fall through the cracks and implementing an EMR provides a good opportunity to get current with your patient's problem lists and medications.
- If you are planning on working as a locum after retirement or doing a shift on a regular basis in a walk-in clinic, you will likely be working with an EMR. As a result, it is good practice to hone your computer skills and get up to speed on electronic medical records. You may be fearful of computers and feel that they will interfere with the patient encounter; however, many patients now expect your practice to be computerized and are surprised when you are still using paper charts.
- If your practice has aged with you, you likely have a predominance of older patients with concomitant co-morbid disease. EMRs are great for the management of chronic diseases and if you are not taking advantage of incentive payments for Diabetes and other chronic conditions, you should seriously consider an EMR — if only to optimize your payments in the last few years of practice. If you have a slick system in place for reminders — ensuring you do not miss your chronic disease payments — it will also make your practice more attractive to a new physician.
This list of benefits is by no means comprehensive, but these are good reasons to implement an EMR in your pre-retirement years. There is nothing better than being able to leave your practice in the capable hands of a physician who will look after your patients with good quality information at their fingertips. Sure beats trying to sift through a two-inch thick paper chart.
Read the Ontario Medical Review article on EMRs and the Late Career Physician.
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