The adoption of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) by doctor practices and hospitals is one of the most exciting developments in health - and the iPad is playing a big part. Up till recently, the typical EMR system was a PC-based enterprise software suite deployed in a large, public hospital. But thanks mainly to the iPad, EMRs are finding their way into tens of thousands of small to medium medical practices. Today, EMR vendor drchrono  is releasing a report about EMR adoption and impact. In a phone interview, I discussed the findings with drchrono CEO Michael Nusimow and COO Daniel Kivatonos.
The 2012 EMR Impact Report from drchrono surveys the usage and impact of EMRs in practices of 25 physicians or less. Drchrono surveyed 1,300 U.S. physicians who currently use EMRs, over a 30 day period. 77% of the practices surveyed were independent practices and over half (52.2%) had just one medical practitioner. Only 10.9% were practices with more than ten practitioners.
It should be noted that EMRs still have a fair way to go until they are commonly used by physicians. According to the National Center for Health Statistics , in 2011 55% of physicians had adopted an electronic health record (EHR) system. That indicates that drchrono's report is a study of relatively early adoptors. Indeed, the report notes that the majority of respondents (60.1%) had only used an EMR for less than one year.
But already, nearly 3/4 (74.5%) say that an EMR has increased the efficiency of their practice. The key efficiency metric, according to drchrono CEO Michael Nusimow and COO Daniel Kivatonos, is time savings.
Doctors are usually busy and harried individuals, as I witness firsthand whenever I go to see my own doctor. So an EMR system that saves a physician time every day is a top priority, Nusimow and Kivatonos told me. The report states that the average time saved using an EMR is 61.7 minutes per day.
Other benefits to physicians include reduced patient paperwork and reduced time spent charting.
What About The Patient?
I asked Nusimow and Kivatonos whether the patients themselves are seeing much benefit of EMRs at this time. The report indicates no, stating that patients are not yet "fully utilizing enhanced forms of patient communications enabled by EMRs." For example, only 10.9% of physicians reported that patients access test results online via their EMR platform. As a patient myself, with diabetes type 1, this is precisely the kind of data I want to access electronically.
Drchrono's focus at this time is very much on getting small to medium physician practices to adopt its iPad-based EMR for their own internal records keeping. Because this type of EMR is so new, Nusimow and Kivatonos told me, doctors might not be able to cope with patients pushing a lot of data to them.
However, they view usage from tech savvy patients as an important part of EMR adoption. In order to fully realise the potential of EMRs, patients must become more engaged with their own health data. So the aim of drchrono, said Nusimow and Kivatonos, is to build a great patient-doctor relationship.
Why drchrono Is Bullish On The iPad
In a study by Manhattan Research  released in May 2012, 62% of physicians stated that they used a tablet for professional purposes. The iPad was "the dominant platform" in that figure. 62% of physicians using a tablet professionally is an impressive figure and it shows why the tablet - and in particular the market-leading iPad - is key to continued EMR adoption.
Drchrono is a vendor of iPad and iPhone EMR applications. It currently has around 30,000 registered providers and 1 million patients on its service. [note: in my July post about drchrono , I quoted a January 2012 article from the New York Times  stating that 50,000 doctors used drchrono. In today's interview, I was told that the figure the NY Times used was incorrect and should've read 15,000.] Drchrono is one of a number of startups offering EMR software. Others include Practice Fusion , HealthFusion , CareCloud , Athenahealth , GloStream  and ElationEMR .
It's clear to me that the tablet is going to be the defining platform for EMRs going forward. It's the perfect device for an EMR, since the physician can carry it around everywhere they go and the patient can monitor their own health data from home. I'm looking forward to the day when I can sit down with my doctor, iPad in hand, and discuss the EMR data that is so important to my health.
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October 1, 2012