October 2, 2023


Imagine you are nearing the end of a shift, grabbing your ‘last’ cup of coffee, sitting down, and preparing to finish documentation. Ikea might be the last thought on your mind, and it probably should be. However, when I think of electronic health record (EHR) systems, I am reminded of Ikea furniture. The concept is simple - create efficiency in capturing and accessing clinical data, much like maximizing the useable space in a 500 - 700 square foot apartment. Yet EHR systems are complex in design and vary from one emergency department to the next. “If you’ve seen one EHR system, you’ve seen one EHR system” is a popular saying that unfortunately holds some truth. Many vendors provide a range of EHR software solutions to handle patient care and diverse business operations. However, these tools are typically delivered in a state that cannot be immediately used. Each organization must adjust, personalize, incorporate, and expand these systems according to their specific requirements and procedures, contributing to variability in application and use.

Straight out of the box, Ikea furniture seems simple enough to put together. The first pieces I purchased in college were assembled, putting my Lego-building skills to work and bypassing the instructions altogether. Sometime later, I would be frustrated because a piece didn’t seem to fit or was already attached in the wrong spot. In this case, the instructions serve as a guide to help one navigate the building process while streamlining effort. It is safe to say EHR systems are far more complex than Ikea furniture, and that physicians are not bypassing picture-based instructions when using them. 

The ACEP Health Innovation & Technology (HIT) Committee is here to help reduce some of the burden and frustration. They have assembled an Electronic Health Record Guide that provides tips and tricks on making your next EHR interaction a bit smoother. The guide provides information on things that can be done by the individual physician, at the hospital level, and through your EHR vendor. From order sets to workflows and macros, it is an excellent way to begin using and mastering the EHR system in new ways. The HIT Committee updates the EHR guide annually and continues to look for tidbits of information to share that can help reduce physician burden concerning EHR utilization. So next time you find yourself frustrated while documenting, grab a Swedish meatball, sit back, and look at the EHR guide.