Why system usability is key to getting the most from your clinical system

Geoff Schrecker, former chairman of the EMIS primary care National User Group (NUG), shares his views on how you can make EMIS Web work harder for you in a primary care and community, children’s and mental health setting.

System usability is key

I first became interested in system usability in the early 90s. As a trainee GP and taking my exams to become a member of the RCGP, I wanted to conduct an audit on the prescribing of Ventolin vs prescribing of steroid preventative inhalers at our practice. It was possible with the software – Meditel System 5 at the time – but the data wasn’t there. People were bypassing the computer to issue prescriptions by hand because they had a perception that it was quicker.

I learned more about data than I did about asthma prescribing in that exercise – the system wasn’t helpful if it wasn’t being used properly.

Fast forward to this decade and we have much, much richer systems like EMIS Web. But the conclusion is still the same: the key to how much you get out of the system is how you use it. Spend some time setting it up to the way you work, and it can start to make some real shortcuts for you.


Some nifty tricks

A lot of people still say to me, “I can write faster than I can type.” And I always say, have you got your synonyms set up? Set up shortcuts for phrases you use all the time - type TTAT and see ‘tired all the time’ go into the record with just four keystrokes.

Do you write your own templates, or does someone do it for you? You know how you work as an individual, so writing your own templates can speed up every day processes. Add in big blocks of text that you use all the time, and you can start to save time each time you use the template.

Don’t be scared of protocols. Again, set them up for processes that you do all the time, and it can automate processes and let you get on with your day.

Searches and reports are key for everyone. If you’re somebody who looks after patients, you want to know how they’re doing. If you think you’ve seen a lot of people in the last six months with a particular problem, a search can tell you in seconds whether that’s the case. It’s interesting – and spotting patterns like this is the thing that will help us drive healthcare forwards.


So how do you get better?

No-one is a born technical whiz, so ask your fellow users, ask for training, phone a friend! Your practice is your record (take some time to watch Dr Larry Weed's grand round from 1971, there is much that hasn't changed), so make time to find ways to make the recording of that data as simple as possible.



There are loads of great examples of how you can make the most of EMIS Web scattered throughout EMIS Now - log on and find out one new thing today, it might be just the thing you’re looking for to help you save time.

Dr Geoff Schrecker is now an independent consultant and can be contacted via his website at geoffschrecker.co.uk or email geoff@geoffschrecker.co.uk