EMRs are complex software applications. The basic capabilities, such as clinical documentation, writing a prescription, and viewing lab results, are generally easy to use — but what about the more sophisticated functions? Think about your formal EMR training: was it limited to 1–2 days at the time of EMR implemention or have you subsequently received additional training? For the majority of EMR users, the likelihood is that the former is true. What this means is that there are many features you may be blissfully unaware of in your EMR. Some of these may be shortcuts or new ways of performing certain tasks that could save you and your staff hours per week. Each hour saved means $$ in your pocket.
Some of the ways that physicians and their practice teams keep up with the advances in their EMR are through annual user conferences or by setting up a local user group where one of the members of the team presents to the others on a certain functionality and essentially becomes the teacher for that particular capability. Alternately, each practice is recommended to have a super-user. This is someone who has received additional training to use the EMR and is able to answer questions and troubleshoot without the need to contact technical support. The super-user can be a physician, nurse, or administrative staff member — essentially anyone who has an interest and can take on and maintain this responsibility. Over time, by having additional expertise onsite in your practice, the benefits will be significant — not only financially, but also in terms of reduced stress when unexpected problems occur.
Vendors are continually enhancing their products. As provinces evolve beyond provincial certifications for EMRs (other than the ability for systems to share information more effectively), this process will accelerate. The reason for this is simple. With EMRs becoming ubiquitous in medical practices, and as the technology matures, the competition for new clients and to retain existing clients will intensify. The best products will begin to differentiate themselves through enhancements to usability, design, and functionality. In the not-too-distant future, all products will be able to do all basic functions, but the more advanced functions will frequently be the key differentiators. How will you keep up if you do not receive training on an ongoing basis? Another important reason to update your in-office training is staff turnover. Physicians join and leave practices, staff come and go, and frequently these users are not effectively trained to use the EMR beyond the basic functions. Often the trainer is someone who learned from someone else within the practice, resulting in the duplication of any poor processes that were passed on to that individual.
There is no getting away from the fact that ongoing training has a cost. At the same time, why would you invest all of your time, energy, and money into a tool that you use every day of practice and yet only use a small part of the functionality? Or have developed time-intensive workarounds for tasks for which there may be a simple solution?
Your EMR is a tool that needs to be effectively used. In order to do so, it is to your benefit to keep up to date with new features and functions beyond the quarterly update bulletin that your vendor sends out. Do yourself and your practice a favour: contact your vendor and arrange a training session. This is an investment that will pay for itself multiple times over, both in terms of time savings and costs.