Sure, everyone says having an electronic medical records (EMR) system is great. You've heard the reasons a million times: an EMR system saves time, improves patient care and monitoring, and finally brings doctors' offices into the 21st century. But with dozens of different software providers offering gigabytes and megawhats and lord knows what else, how are you supposed to know which one's right for you?
That's where Vancouver GP Dr Alan Brookstone comes in. He's the founder of CanadianEMR, a discussion website and blog that's been around for about four years, but is this month expanding far beyond its initial vision.
Set for launch at the end of September, CanadianEMR will feature a totally revamped website. Dr Brookstone gave NRM a preview of the site, which is a sort of RateMDs meets Tripadvisor or Travelocity, only for EMR systems.
"I have been involved with healthcare IT for 15 years," says Dr Brookstone, "and I think this is the right thing to do now, to shift input back to the consumer."
COMPARE AND RATE
CanadianEMR's comparison tool will allow you to select individual systems to look at, but if you're not sure which EMR programs you should look at, don't worry. You can enter your parameters in a search engine for instance: which systems are available where you live? Are they approved by the province for funding? Do they do the functions you need them to? and the website will provide you with a list of EMR systems to consider.
CanadianEMR will feature a unique search function, says Dr Brookstone: the ability to search for EMR systems by their appropriateness for your medical specialty. In addition, Dr Brookstone plans to invite EMR vendors to submit lists of Canadian physicians who use their products to CanadianEMR, so the site can publish the number of doctors - and the breakdown by specialty - who use each EMR program.
One thing you won't find in the comparison tool, however, is the price of the EMR. "We think physicians should be making decisions based on what their clinical needs are, and then go negotiate with a vendor," says Dr Brookstone.
EMR users who visit the website will be invited to fill out a questionnaire to rate their own EMRs. Once enough ratings have been collected to provide a semblance of statistical significance, EMR ratings will be displayed in the comparison tool in five categories: purchase experience, implementation experience, support experience, usability and satisfaction with the product. Given a sufficient number of ratings by doctors, this piece of the site could be running by the end of the year, says Dr Brookstone.
CanadianEMR's re-imagining has already been attracting attention in the industry. An article on the new plans appeared on page one of Canadian Healthcare Technology's April issue, and Dr Brookstone has drummed up sponsorship for the site from multinational tech giants Microsoft, Telus and Intel.
The new website even has some academic clout behind it. Dr Karim Keshavjee, a researcher with the McMaster University-affiliated Centre for Evaluation of Medicines and renowned EMR implementation expert, helped develop the comparison tool.
The CanadianEMR blog will continue to publish news and advice to help doctors improve their EMR-software use. "It contains well over 800 postings, all by physicians," says Dr Brookstone. "The core of all this is quality information."