Are physicians using all the right criteria when selecting an EMR? This question was highlighted for me recently when looking to replace my car. You may see this as a rather strange and tenuous comparison, but hear me out and add your thoughts at the end of this post if you have had similar experiences.
When purchasing a car, there is almost a religious process that most people go through to identify the brand and model that suits them best. Consider the following:
- A car is one of the few major purchases that one makes on a regular basis (usually every 3–4 years).
- Needs change based upon one’s stage of life.
- Features are updated year-to-year and advances in engineering and safety that were once included in high-end vehicles become included as standard (e.g. air bags, proximity sensors, bluetooth, USB connectors, etc.).
- There are hundreds of options from which to choose, some more popular than others, but all seem to have some presence on the road.
- All vehicles go through a process of testing and certification before being made available commercially.
What are the common steps when choosing a car? Not presented in any rigid order:
- Consider your immediate needs. Large vs. small, sports vs. utility, import vs. locally produced, fuel consumption, etc.
- Search the newspapers for good deals, financing options, and dealer promotions.
- Narrow choice to a category or categories of vehicles.
- Research options on the Internet, read reviews, safety ratings, and consumer reports.
- Check features and specifications and compare to other similar vehicles in the same class.
- Talk to friends and colleagues who have purchased similar vehicles to learn about their experiences.
- Decide upon timing — when do you need the vehicle?
- Look into financing options — purchase or lease?
- Then comes the fun part — Visit the Dealers and Test Drive!
- You may drive many or just a single vehicle before making your decision. If you have done your research well, the test drive may simply be a confirmation of your decision.
The test drive is one of the most important stages of the selection process. It is the time you get to decide how the car feels when you drive it: comfort, amenities, braking, performance, spaciousness, etc. All senses are hyperacute as you experience the smells, visual feasts (or lack thereof), sound of the engine, and tactile sensations. Depending on your budget, you may choose at this point to add or remove features; however, it is also at this point that you may put the brakes on (literally and figuratively) and change your mind entirely about your choice. Why would you make that judgement call right at the time of decision making? Often it is because the vehicle just does not feel right. Despite your best attempts to identify exactly the features you want and need, when making that final decision, it can be the simple act of “feel” (hard to quantify as it is so personal) that makes the the decision for you.
When purchasing an EMR, even though the cost(s) can be as much as a car or significantly greater over the lifetime of the product, how much diligence is applied to the process of selection? Particularly since this is not a 3–4 year cyclical decision, but rather one that will have an impact on your work life for many years and perhaps decades? I recognize that it is not as much fun to drive an EMR in comparison to driving a car, but it is no less important.
The concluding recommendation in this article is that you should be test-driving your EMR. In fact, you may want to observe, use, and test it in more than one location (colleague’s practices) to ensure the EMR fits right and feels right for your style of practice. Do not miss this important step when making your decision and try to apply the same level of diligence as when purchasing a car. If in a large group, you may have no choice but to make concessions; however, whenever possible, trust your instincts and gut feelings. In the end, that may make the difference between an enjoyable ride or one that you may regret for many years to come.
What have been your experiences when selecting an EMR? Do you agree with the “selecting a car” analogy? What are the most important factors to consider when you make a decision?