Last Updated on June 26, 2022 by Laura Turner
Electronic medical records were an inevitable advancement. Paper filing could only go so far, and EMRs allowed the healthcare industry to simplify and automate clinical tasks for greater efficiency. Hospitals and practices throughout the world use EMR systems, with a vast majority of facilities using at least one.
Doctors and providers of all sorts must become familiar with EMR systems if they want to enjoy a lengthy career in the medical field. The CDC reports more than 78 percent of office-based physicians have adopted some form of electronic records software. Nearly every system is different, making it imperative for healthcare providers to become acquainted with multiple setups. This is particularly true for graduates entering the workforce and medical professionals interested in locum tenens positions.
Medical students typically are introduced to EMRs during clinicals, with the system they learn dependent on where they happen to complete their studies. Certain facilities use only one system, while others might ask their employees to deal with a few. Medical students who do clinicals at multiple facilities gain exposure to several systems, and most students work with at least one EMR system by the time they graduate.
There are considerable differences between EMR systems, with significant variations among popular choices such as Cerner, Epic, and eClinicalWorks. They look, feel, and operate differently, including everything from navigation to the specific sort of information they collect and maintain. Therefore, graduates and practicing physicians alike can benefit from becoming proficient in more than one system.
Weighing Your Options
Some people learn more quickly than others, but many EMR systems are complex and take time to master regardless of your skill level.
Knowledge of how to navigate more than one system will help improve your ramp-up time when transitioning into a new position. It can also come in handy if your practice switches to a different EMR system.
In addition to grappling with complex EMR systems, many organizations face a physician shortage and high patient volumes, leaving little time for doctors to complete charts. Medical professionals who handle back-to-back appointments all day long need to be tech-savvy and ready to hit the ground running to avoid falling behind.
Those who aren’t familiar with their organization’s EMR system might find themselves going back into the office to do their charting on evenings and weekends to catch up. Medical professionals who are up-to-date with the technology can finish charting on the fly. The benefits of learning multiple EMR systems are clear, and locum tenens positions offer a great way to gain that knowledge.
Let’s consider a hypothetical of Susan, a new medical school graduate. If Susan secures a two-year gig as a permanent provider, she will have a chance to master that facility’s EMR system over the next two years. While that expertise is great, Susan will likely miss out on a chance to learn other current and emerging systems. If the hospital ever changes its system, she will struggle through the learning curve all over again.
If Susan instead tries locum tenens work right out of residency, she might take a six-month job at one facility followed by a six-month stint at a different location. She would be exposed to two different systems. The more time Susan spends doing locum tenens work, the more free training she can receive on numerous EMR systems. It creates a snowball effect, improving her chances of finding additional locum positions and mastering more EMR systems.
The Benefits of EMR Expertise
Between bolstering your résumé and allowing you to be more efficient at work, there are clear advantages to learning multiple EMR systems. The five most prominent benefits are as follows:
1. Opening up more opportunities. Knowing more than one system decreases your learning curve when adapting to a new environment. This is particularly useful when working locum tenens positions. It can also be helpful in a corporate capacity, which might task you with developing and implementing new EMR systems.
2. Building a better CV. Being adept in several different systems could earn you recognition as an expert, making your CV more attractive to potential employers. This could open you up to a wider variety of positions. In the locum tenens industry, this creates self-sustaining growth as you’re introduced to more facilities and different EMR systems.
3. Reducing ramp-up time. When you spend less time trying to learn a new system, you can work larger patient volumes and generate more revenue for the facility and yourself. This is particularly true if you enter private practice, where a smaller staff handles the workflow.
4. Staying up-to-date on technology. Medical professionals who want to remain relevant must stay on top of technology trends — particularly EMR systems. Some providers have even lost their jobs for not using their organizations’ EMR systems properly. Learning multiple systems will help ensure you don’t become outdated.
5. Avoiding penalties. Effectively navigating EMR systems isn’t just good practice; it helps guarantee you’re paid by insurance companies for proper charting. New healthcare laws also make EMR proficiency mandatory, with practices that fall short potentially losing Medicare reimbursements.
There are so many variations of EMR technology, with each system presenting its own unique quirks. The lack of consistency between systems creates intrinsic value in mastering multiple programs. This knowledge can help pad your skill set while making you a valuable asset to any practice. Your talents will allow you to work through greater patient volumes and help your organization avoid penalties.
MaryAnn Stolgitis is vice president of operations at Barton Associates, a national recruiting and staffing firm based in the Boston area that specializes in temporary healthcare assignments. In her free time, MaryAnn enjoys food and wine, traveling, and running marathons.