EMRs – Specialty Conundrum

A specialty EMR versus a generic electronic medical records solution is the hot new debate in the health IT community. To get to a reasonable conclusion, we first need to understand what specialty EMRs actually are. Any EMR which is tailored to meet the exclusive requirements of a specific medical specialty is regarded as a “specialty EMR”. A specialty solution differs from a generic one in a number of ways. It comprises a rigid tool-set to accommodate the unique workflow of specialists like dermatologists, cardiologists and ophthalmologists etc. As a result once they are utilized, specialty EMR systems are more flexible to the immediate requisites of a specialist clinician than a generic system.

Conventionally, vendors have developed their solutions to handle the clinical workflow of a general or family practitioner, rather than that of a specialist. Naturally, such systems will lack the intricacy necessary to function with medical specialties. When one ponders the matter, the inevitable conclusion reached is to have a unique system design, that caters to the specialty specific requirements of each clinician. When EMR data templates and components are designed specifically for each specialty, providers are able to accomplish one of the main causes of implementation: expedition of clinical documentation. Therefore, general practitioners often do not need to search for an EMR that can accommodate their specific requirements and prefer to use the most affordable EMR with basic functionality. However, the rapid surge in EMR adoption has meant that clinicians are now more demanding, with hundreds of different vendors trying to beat competition with advanced features related to various specialties.

One of the advantages of a ready to use generic EMR is the limited implementation lifecycle, when compared with the amount of time and input required to implement a specialty EMR. However, implementation is merely the start of the journey and we notice a complete contrast once the clinician actually starts using their system. Clinicians using a specialized system have a smooth transition, as the new solution accommodates their existing workflows and questionnaires without much customization. However, providers choosing an off the shelf EMR system often need to maintain their existing paper based documentation methods, as their generic system lacks the tool-set required to manage their existing intricate documentation.

Many EMR analysts and implementation specialists have identified the lack of specialty components as the main cause of EMR implementation failure. A dermatologist may need high resolution images of the patient’s body in order to elaborate the extent of their clinical assessment, whereas a obstetricians would need to analysis and overview of patient’s pregnancy lifecycle. Each of these specialists would need the right tool-set to accommodate the relevant information, hence selecting an EMR with a mere capability of recording textual information would result in duplication of data entry and workflow. In the examples above, both cases would require a different set of panels to display the clinical findings along with the corresponding ICD/CPT codes. This feature of identifying the relevant ICD/CPT codes and recommending the right clinical procedure is inherent to specialty EMR(s).

Keeping the end goal of enhanced clinical care and expedition of clinical workflows in perspective, an electronic medical records solution tailored to a particular specialty proves to be more effective and subsequently more practical. Statistics show that roughly fifty percent of the clinician population across the nation has already implemented electronic medical records on some level. After having the bitter experience of an off the shelf EMR, many physicians are now turning to specialty based systems. EMR vendors now need to heed to the huge gap that exists in the market and become more sensitive to the needs of their customers.


Read more:  How Secure is Your EMR?

2 thoughts on “EMRs – Specialty Conundrum

  1. Vendors are not the only source of specialized EHR’s. Sometimes tech savvy doctors or groups of doctors in a given specialty roll their own. One such area is optometry, but that is only one example where this can and will happen.

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