In any geographic region or community that is ramping up the implementation and use of EMRs, one of the major challenges is making available sufficient 'Demo Clinics' that new potential users can visit in order to evaluate an EMR in a working environment. In the early stages of EMR deployment there are simply not enough demo clinics to go around, not to mention the disruption to the clinics of a continuous stream of people (physicians and staff) who require orientation, demonstration of both good and bad functionality and some time to observe hands-on experience with the EMR in that clinic. It does not take long for keen demo clinics to turn into islands of fatigue as they reach their limit.
However, the Demo Clinic concept is highly appropriate and valuable. If there is no mechanism to visit a real clinic in which you can truly observe the workflow, performance and functionality in action, how do you know what you are buying.
I would like to share an idea in terms of the Demo Clinic concept that I believe is sustainable and particularly in the early stages of EMR deployment when locations are in short supply. I do not take credit for the concept and I have heard colleagues speak of this over the past few years, but it is something worth sharing and eliciting some thoughts and feedback from readers of this blog.
First, lets look at the needs of the potential EMR purchaser and the funding program:
The physician and support staff (medical office staff, nurses etc.) need 'real' locations in which they can observe and potentially get some hands-on experience with an EMR before they make a purchase decision;
Physicians and their staff in reality need more than a half-day of access to a demo clinic in order to due a true evaluation of the EMR application, but as a result of a practical compromise will often settle for a morning or afternoon;
Funding programs support the demo clinic concept and may offer subsidies to practices in order to make their clinics available. In other words, compensate the physicians and staff in the clinics for their loss of income during these visits;
Second, what about the additional needs of the demo clinic:
Physicians in the demo clinic need to take vacations. Even short breaks can be very therapeutic, however it is nearly impossible to find locums who are willing to work for short (2-3 day) periods;
Medical office staff have the same needs. In certain practices, particularly in groups this is dealt with by having a pool of part-time staff who take time out through a shared schedule.
Demo clinics could be encouraged to make available a block of short-term (2-3 day) time slots in which physicians would like to take short vacations. (This could be a Thursday, Friday or add in an additional Monday). A Monday is a busy day to be in any medical practice because of the impact of the weekend. An opportunity to see how an EMR really performs;
Physicians who are interested in evaluating an EMR may then request to do a locum in the demo clinic for one of those time-blocks;
The physician who is being relieved can take the time as vacation knowing their practice is covered or may in fact do a practice swap with the physician who is in the demo clinic by covering that physician's practice for all or part of the time the physician is away.
This concept could also be applied to office staff, who could apply to and work in the demo clinic with the regular staff for anywhere between 1-3 days. To make it simpler, this is more likely to be successful if the visiting staff member is paid by their own physician employer.
I could not think of a better way for a physician or a member of the practice staff to get real hands-on experience with an EMR. More important, I see this model as quite sustainable in the long-term. Obviously there would be further details to work out such as EMR orientation of the visiting physician and potentially the visiting staff, however these are details that can be resolved.
What do you think of this concept? Could it meet the needs of potential EMR purchasers? Would EMR based practices be willing to offer up short time slots to allow locum physicians to work in the practices? Do you see this as a win-win concept for demo clinic and visiting physician/staff? Are there downsides we need to consider?
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