Key enablers of a 'better EMR experience:' Q&A with U of Kansas Hospital CMIO Dr. Gregory Ator

Gregory Ator, MD, chief medical informatics officer at University of Kansas Hospital, shares his predictions for the future of EMRs and the two factors he focuses on to improve user experience.

In addition to his role as CMIO, Dr. Ator also serves senior medical director at the Kansas City-based hospital and an assistant otolaryngology professor at Kansas University School of Medicine.

Dr. Ator's research interests include artificial intelligence, usability and performance excellence in technical systems, and he has clinical expertise is otology and chronic ear disease.

Here, Dr. Ator discusses how University of Kansas Hospital optimizes EMR usage for clinicians. 

Editor's Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What do you find frustrates your clinicians most about the EMR? 

Dr. Gregory Ator: The human interface. The most difficult issue is the friction it takes to document basic notes. Our vendor is making a lot of progress by improving and reducing the complexity of the interface but it still remains onerous. We are encouraged by the automated documentation possibilities of AI and are engaged in a pilot to investigate that.

Q: What technology initiatives has your organization implemented to improve data sharing between patients and clinicians? 

GA: We are active participants in our local health information exchange and hope that we will soon be to the point where we can have semantic interoperability and present the data in such a fashion that a clinician can overcome trust concerns, and external data can be a part of the native chart.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you're facing as CMIO? What keeps you up at night?

GA: Figuring out how to educate our physicians on the basic operations of the EMR. We are spending a lot of effort to re-train our providers because we find that many providers are unfamiliar with basic operations of the EMR. Training and customization are basic enablers of a better EMR experience. 

Q: What is one method of technology you expect to really take off in the healthcare space within the next five years? 

GA: I am very excited to see the combination of AI, natural language processing and voice to text and what that will do for providers. This should allow, when in combination with clinical decision support, a very robust technical experience with improvement in adherence to basic care guidelines. The key to this will be improving the experience and adoption of EMRs for the rank and file provider. This ensures a much better predisposition to such care reminders.

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