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OSHU receives grant to tackle EMR challenges

EMR systems are like any other medical tools. All the potential benefits go out the window if one doesn't know how to use them.

EMR systems are like any other medical tools. All the potential benefits go out the window if one doesn't know how to use them.

An automobile is a faster mode of transportation than walking. However, if the vehicle is being operated by someone without a license, walking is probably the safer bet. That's not a reason to walk everywhere for the rest your life, though. It's why we learn how to drive.

The medical industry is no different. The right tools in the hands of skilled professionals can lead to excellent patient care. Give those same instruments to someone who has no idea how to use them and it is likely more harm will be done than good.

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) was recently awarded a $1 million grant by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The money will fund research into the challenges associated with electronic medical records (EMR) systems – including a lack of understanding on the best ways to use them.

"Most tools used in medicine require knowledge and skills of both those who develop them and use them," William Hersh, MD, told Healthcare IT News. "Even tools that are themselves innocuous could be detrimental to patient care if used improperly."

Hersh, a professor and chair of the Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology at OHSU, makes a good point. The benefits of EMR systems have been discussed at length in countless healthcare and IT publications and news sites. But, there are medical facilities that have transitioned to EMR, yet haven't experienced all the positives that they should.

Without so much data at their fingertips, healthcare professionals must be guided through the process and shown how to manage these systems. Like someone learning to drive for the first time, the challenge should not force them to give up and walk everywhere for the rest of their lives.

EMR consultants are working with practices throughout the country to show them how to successfully implement new technologies and improve the quality of patient care at the same time. Change often means new challenges, but greater rewards.