One of the questions that I am frequently asked about EMR systems is to describe what I see as the future of EMRs in Canada. With many provinces now achieving a critical mass of EMR users, we will now be able to do things with EMRs that in the past were very difficult to achieve. There are some key EMR features that I would like to highlight.
- Usability: EMRs will get easier to use. This will take place at variable rates depending on which EMR system you are using. Those with active user groups who can provide constructive feedback to vendors will benefit the most. As the focus shifts from getting physicians to adopt their first EMR system, to EMR optimization, it will become more important for vendors to focus on the usability of their systems and they will dedicate a greater proportion of their resources to improving their products.
- Mobility: EMRs are traditionally accessed using a laptop or desktop computer. The laptop is sometimes carried by the physician from room to room or can be attached to a wall mount or mobile cart. Because it is best to access one’s EMR using a large monitor due to the large amounts of information that need to be accessed, it is not practical in many settings to use tablets or even smartphones on a consistent basis in the examination room. However, outside of the medical office, the needs are completely different. When accessing one’s EMR remotely, the ability to view specific information using a mobile app, or even a browser with secure access, are extremely valuable to clinicians who may need to look up a lab result or write a prescription. The next phase of EMR use will see a much wider range of mobile apps for both look-up purposes and the management of medications and clinical notes.
- Security: Some clinicians are likely to use regular email for communication with colleagues and patients. This is not ideal from a security perspective, but often practicality trumps security, particularly if the process is time-consuming and makes the messaging more difficult. The next phase of EMRs will incorporate easier-to-use and more streamlined secure communications to transmit information to colleagues (secure referral or consultation) or to communicate with patients through integrated patient portals.
- Analytics: As physicians move through the early challenges of EMR implementation and achieve a level of optimization of their internal office setting, they will become far more focused on the ability of EMRs to improve patient care. This will dovetail with pay-for-performance programs in which provincial programs will expect to see measurable benefit for the dollars invested in healthcare. In a paper-based practice, this would be extremely difficult to accomplish; however, using an EMR that incorporates analytic capabilities, it will be possible to generate status reports for populations or individual patients with a click of button.
What other features do you think will be prominent in EMRs in the next 5–10 years? Add your thoughts or comments below.