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Past the Plastic Mattress and on to a Better EMR System for Ophthalmology

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Ah! It’s midnight and I am finished with the emergency room patients! I slip into the familiar plastic covered mattress, which squeaks with every movement. I never thought I would come to love that sound but that cacophonous squeak meant I had the chance to get some sleep prior to my next day as a resident in ophthalmology. As I strived to learn as much ophthalmology as possible, I scribbled – in my best handwriting of course – on the familiar paper charts to document my patient encounters.  Oh, how times have changed. No more plastic mattresses and no more paper charts. Here come the electronic medical record (EMR) systems.

As EMR systems were introduced, I realized I was much more excited about not having a plastic mattress. The initial permutations of EMR systems were not specialty specific and, in some cases, had ophthalmology as a significant afterthought. Well, I thought, that’s just the way it is. I would work hard to get through the day as I always had on paper. Then I got a call from a friend, Dr. Steve Rosenfeld. He asked me if I wanted to work on a new EMR system that was ophthalmology specific.  I did not know what it entailed but I knew a specialty specific EMR system was needed to save ophthalmologists time and document more appropriately. I showed up to the interview in the same suit I bought for residency interviews. After being proud of myself for still fitting in the suit, I went to the interview. I walked into the room and there sat the two co-founders of Modernizing Medicine. Dan Cane, the co-founder of Blackboard, and Dr. Michael Sherling, a Harvard trained dermatologist, must have seen something they liked and I got the job. The rest is history, as they say.

Building an Ophthalmology-specific EMR System

I’m a doctor, not a software developer, so I’d never learned the basics of coding. But Dr. Sherling taught me all I needed to know, so I started coding and building the new EMR system with all the ophthalmic knowledge that I learned in residency and private practice. For example, as a retina specialist I wanted an easy way to document intravitreal injections. Essentially, I was building the exact EMR system that I wanted – and that other ophthalmologists needed: one that was designed just for our specific workflow. The code used to develop EMA Ophthalmology turned into an elegant and intuitive interface on the computer screen. It still amazes me that orange and green code can turn into a usable computer program.

As more ophthalmologists began to use the product, we continued to make changes based upon their feedback and suggestions. And because EMA Ophthalmology is hosted in the cloud, each of our users would benefit from these enhancements – no need to have a computer tech install new software or purchase more equipment.

An Eye on the Future

Similar to the major advancements in ophthalmic care over the years, EMA Ophthalmology continues to progress.  There are now four practicing ophthalmologists at Modernizing Medicine working to make EMA Ophthalmology better in our respective subspecialties, and we continue to evolve the system based on feedback from our users. We strive to make the program think and practice like an ophthalmologist. As our practice environment changes, we want the EMR system to be an asset and not an obstacle. We don’t have time for a difficult EMR system. EMA Ophthalmology adapts to each individual user’s specific practice preferences from patient to patient. My goal was to help develop a specialty specific product that could save time and hopefully let us all return to our non-plastic mattresses earlier.

If you’re attending the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) from October 18-21 in Chicago, please stop by Modernizing Medicine booth 4353 to say hi. Dr. David Goldman, Dr. Steven Rosenfeld, my other colleagues and I would love to show you EMA Ophthalmology.