Why Doctors Hate Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)
Having studied the Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) space for a few years now, it’s clear to me that EMR adoption is a huge challenge. Even in developed markets like the US, successful implementation rates are pretty low (especially in small clinics). In spite of a huge Federal Government Incentive Program, the progress is gradual (at best).
In India the picture is a lot worse. My assessment is that EMR adoption here is in low single digits.
There are many theories and observations about why doctors dislike Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). One often discussed observation is that doctors are ‘technophobes’. I personally don’t think that’s true. On the contrary many doctors, whether in US or in India are ‘gadget freaks’ (when it comes to devices like new smartphones, laptops, cameras, etc.).
The primary issue is that of software usability. Many traditional EMR systems are quite complicated and difficult to use. These systems at times resemble heavy duty ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning IT Systems) that run the operations of large multi-million dollar corporations. A small clinic doesn’t need all this complexity. These EMRs may actually end up hurting the efficiency of a clinic, rather than improve it. Also many of these systems do not enable interactions with patients for chronic disease management, e-consultation, telemedicine, etc. Doctors are looking for simple systems that can improve their productivity, as well as support better patient care. In absence of these, they are perfectly ok going back to their old paper notes based methods.
I recently came across an excellent article in ‘The Journal of Surgical Radiology’ by Shahid Shah, “Column: Why MDs Dread EMRs”. The author has done a great job of summarizing the major reasons that are hurdles to effective adoption. I encourage the readers to go through this article for a detailed insight into the real issues.