Electronic medical records: Not the healthcare software “silver bullet”

As the electronic health record (EHR) discussion rages on, I’m continually asked why organizations need healthcare software such as enterprise content management (ECM) or document management if they already have an electronic medical record (EMR) – that’s a lot of acronyms, I know.

I’ve tried saying, “EMR and ECM – it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.  It’s really more like apples-to-oranges.”  But that response only elicits more questions.  So, in an effort to bring clarity to the EMR vs. ECM showdown, I’ll expand a bit. Let’s start with an analogy to one of my favorite pop culture infomercial phenomena:  the Magic Bullet.

Have you seen this thing?  It claims to be able to do it all – chop, mince, grate AND blend!  When I first saw it on TV, I was impressed by the vast capabilities of this “blender.”  It made me believe that a single tool really could do all of those things – and do them all well. 

In fact, a quick Web search revealed that, overall, many reviewers are satisfied with the Magic Bullet.  But, an interesting theme emerged – while it does everything claimed in the infomercial, it doesn’t do all of those things well.  You get where I’m going with this.

Putting this in the context of the “meaningful use” standards, one has to wonder:  Is the EMR the silver – or Magic – bullet that will get you there?  Does it provide the capability and functionality to meet all of the requirements? 

My short answer: No. Depending on what you’ve heard so far, this might be a bold statement. But, in my experience, there’s absolutely no way that one single technology is enough.

 It’s not just me who’s thinking this – the market is proving it. An article last summer about trends affecting the document management market focused on one trend in particular: that EMR and ECM integrations were rising. What’s more, it suggested that EMR vendors are taking notice of this and, as a result, aren’t developing their own inclusive ECM solutions because it’s not what they do best.   

So here’s the bottom line: EMR and ECM solutions bring immense value to healthcare organizations, both by adding their own functionality and by complementing that of the other. But when EMRs pretend to be ECM, vendors overpromise, customers get confused, and in healthcare, patients are put at risk.

So to all the software vendors and made-for-television gurus out there: Know what you do, do it well – and stick to it.

Susan deCathelineau

Susan deCathelineau

With more than 20 years of healthcare technology and leadership experience, Susan deCathelineau is Hyland’s senior vice president and chief customer success officer. In prior roles, she has led health... read more about: Susan deCathelineau