Building EMR expertise: It’s like using Photoshop after finally reading the manual

Dr Bill Cavers knows a thing or two about EMRs. During his eight years as co-chair of the GPSC he also served on the Physician Information Technology Office (PITO) Steering Committee, selecting EMR vendors and ensuring province-wide implementation went smoothly. However, when his office decided to participate in the Practice Support Program (PSP) patient panel assessment process, Dr Cavers realized that his years of high-level experience didn’t necessarily translate into expertise in using his own clinic’s EMR program. “I’ve always said that using our EMR is much like using the full version of Photoshop with no manual,” quips Dr Cavers. “Our EMR is powerful – but so complicated we couldn’t do anything with it! It has user files, but it’s impossible to understand them!” Luckily the PSP patient panel assessment team was able to help.

understanding your
patient panel

As part of the support provided during the patient panel assessment process, PSP coordinators teach doctors and clinic staff tips and tricks to help them use their EMRs confidently and efficiently. They also highlight simplified and intuitive reporting functions, support physicians in pursuit of clinical quality improvement, and provide resources to engage clinic teams in panel assessment work.

“Starting our patient panel work, we identified patients who were still active and those who were not active and got that cleaned up,” says Dr Cavers. “But the main area we received help with was looking at different groups of patients, and evaluating what we’re doing for them. Our PSP coordinator connected us with a support person who was able to help us with different group searches that he had created in profile—which patients are on opiates, and which are on opiates and a benzodiazepine, that sort of thing.”

According to Dr Cavers, the support from PSP in bringing his clinic manager and the clinic’s MOAs on board was key. “Our clinic manager Jo-Anne is up to her eyebrows in our patient panel assessment work,” he says. “I recruited Jo-Anne to be part of the PSP work, and she would attend with me every time, and then we would talk afterwards about how to support the other physicians, reach consensus on where to begin work, and discuss how to meet with the staff to talk to them.”

The process of ensuring the clinic’s MOAs were confident in all areas of EMR functionality had the unfortunate side effect of creating some staff turnover—a few staff members weren’t able to embrace the transition to a fully computer-oriented practice. However, through support from the PSP, the clinic’s MOA team is now confident and well-versed in EMR use. “We’ve got a great team right now,” says Dr Cavers. The MOAs are awesome, coming by our desk and saying ‘Here are the reports for this month!’”

Dr Cavers was motivated to participate in the PSP patient panel assessment process by his strong belief in the future of EMRs, and his passion for clinical practice. “I wanted to get more out of our EMR, and I’m a strong believer that the EMRs are going to be a cornerstone of practice in the future,” Dr Cavers explains. “I sat on the PITO Steering Committee and helped bring EMRs into BC, and I wanted to be at the coalface when we actually used them to do what we intended them to do. And I love clinical practice—I love what I do and I want to do a good job, and I still see the EMR as a way to improve my ability to do that in many different ways.”

Building his EMR expertise and supporting his clinic staff through their learning process has brought joy and a sense of purpose back into his practice, he says. “Sometimes you get so used to being a hamster on a wheel that being able to step back and develop a pattern and a purpose—and organize your staff to help and support you—is such a boon."