In this digital age, many physicians' offices are still managing their records under a paper filing system. One Ahwatukee Foothills resident is working to usher these offices into modern times.

Margaret Blue, a 20-year resident of Ahwatukee and president of Total EMR Solutions, is behind the recent launch of the company's DemoLab, which aims to assist physicians in selecting medical record software for their offices.

EMR, which stands for electronic medical record, software is an alternative to the traditional filing and records system many offices use. Offices utilizing EMR store their records electronically, which streamlines the process, Blue said.

"I realized that EMR decisions are complicated and that doctors don't always have unbiased voices talking to them about those decisions," Blue said.

According to a press release by the company, only about 40 percent of physician offices have EMR software. Medical record software can cost more than $100,000 for practices of two or three physicians. Although the federal government is currently providing between $44,000 to $64,000 in cash incentives to physicians using an EMR system, such software is still costly and making a selection that works best for each office can be difficult and time consuming.

For doctors electing to go digital, selecting the right EMR product can't be taken lightly, Blue said.

"Short of ‘who's going to be my clinical partner,' this is probably the next biggest decision," she said.

Total EMR Solutions aims to make the decision easier while removing the natural marketing bias that accompanies going straight to the vendors, Blue said.

"It seems like such an obvious solution," she said. "But nobody else is doing this."

With DemoLab, physicians can use and test EMR software side by side, allowing them to compare products and determine the best choice for their office. Physicians are also educated on how each product works, so they have a clear understanding of what it can and can't do, said Jennifer Tumlinson, who helps manage Total EMR Solutions.

"If they're frustrated with the time they're spending with a product it's something they're going to have a problem with in the office," Tumlinson said.

Once they have narrowed down their choices, Total EMR Solutions introduces physicians to the appropriate vendors.

The selection process takes about two weeks. Without DemoLab, the average medical practice takes approximately 13 months to settle on an EMR system, Blue said.

Total EMR Solutions plans to open two additional DemoLabs in early 2011. From there, the company hopes to expand to the top 25 major metropolitan areas in the United States.

"We're waiting to make sure we have everything ironed out in the pilot site so that when we're ready to roll that will happen very rapidly, Tumlinson said. "The doctors in other major cities need it just as much as the doctors here locally, so we want to make sure that when we start up over there we start up ready to be able to serve."

Catholic Healthcare West's Urgent Care center in Ahwatukee Foothills uses EMR software to track its records. The software helps keep records legible as well as efficient, and provides a more complete medical record for patients, Site Director Jean Dorame said.

"Obviously, it's quicker to jot down a note on a piece of paper and tell someone just verbally instructions, but that's not in the patient's best interests," she said.

Using electronic records software is standard practice now, Dorame noted.

"If you're not electronic it's not safe care for your patients, it's not safe for the practice with documentation," she said. "It's so easy to recall your records."

Josh Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a senior at Arizona State University.


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