Mastering EMRs as a Locum Tenens

Apr 05, 2017

Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems are an integral part of healthcare today.  And when you decided to work locums, you knew you’d be encountering new EMRs at every stop.  This may seem daunting, but it also presents a great opportunity to enhance your experience and build your CV.

Exposure to different EMRs can make you more marketable. In fact, locums agencies place significant value on your exposure to different EMRs.

Not all EMRs are user-friendly.  Some EMR software can be cumbersome and less than intuitive. But using the EMR is an important part of every patient interaction, and there are many different systems to learn–some facilities use more than one.

EMR Basics

Though there are numerous EMR systems on the market, most have standard feature sets and functionality.  For instance, many systems use a checkbox method to make data entry more efficient.

But quantifying patient symptoms using boxes can fail to tell a patient’s complete story. Physicians with a lot of experience working locum tenens recommend using dictation functions whenever possible. Capturing a detailed patient narrative is advised.

Consider Workarounds

Some physicians have discovered “workarounds” as an effective strategy for faster EMR adoption. Workarounds are created to make EMR usage easier and to improve continuity of care. Many EMRs have help sections that show simple workarounds (including keyboard shortcut commands).

“(Keyboard shortcut commands) allow the user to keep his/her fingers on the keyboard rather than using the mouse or trackpad, facilitating more efficient flow once they are learned,” says Family Nurse Practitioner Tom. G. Bartol in a Medscape article. “In my EHR system, I have been able to enter the history of present illness (HOPI) in a comment field for each of the patient’s problems; in doing so, I can enter all problem histories on a single template, rather than opening and closing a template for each problem.”

Templates are another good way to expedite EMR usage. Many EMR systems include documentation templates, or they allow users to create their own. Templates can significantly reduce the time spent charting.

You’ll Get Better

As with anything, repetition breeds perfection. While EMRs may differ, you will still enhance your ability to scan the screen quickly, browse with accuracy and speed, and learn shortcuts.

Try not to get frustrated. A University of Manitoba study revealed that it could take up to a year before a healthcare professional becomes competent and confident in his/her usage of EMRs. In most locums roles, you don’t have that long, but with enough exposure and experience, you will get the hang of it.