One of the ongoing challenges that medical students face pertains to the preponderance of new technology and therapies. While it is important to learn how to treat patients using tried-and-true methods, prospective physicians also have to learn how to use innovations that are becoming widely adopted. When it comes to direct medical treatment, this may include new medications or devices that are meant to improve patient outcomes. Outside of medical treatment, future doctors will inevitably have to work with EHR systems.

However, not all medical schools give their students hands-on EHR training.  The lack of training may create challenges for these students post-graduation, considering that EHR usage by healthcare facilities is rapidly expanding due to the federal government incentives for the adoption of these records.

'Schools have a responsibility'
In 2012, the Alliance for Clinical Education surveyed 338 clinical directors across the U.S. and learned that only 64 percent of medical schools provided their students with EHR training, reported American Medical News. Within this group, only two-thirds were allowed to make notes in the records. Another 41 percent said students could work with notes, but were not allowed to give orders. Additionally, only 27 percent of study participants overall said medical students could view and write notes as well as co-signed patient orders. Also, the acceptance of any student's work as official parts of patients' records was not uniform.

"Schools have a responsibility to graduate students with the expertise and sense of duty in the basics of practice," said Lynn Cleary, M.D., president of the ACE, as quoted by Healthcare IT News. "The EHR is now part of that skill set."

In recognition of this responsibility, the ACE and several other organizations across the U.S. with an interest in medical education are working to rectify the shortage of schools that include EHR instruction. The ACE itself has developed guidelines that recommend medical students practice with order entry - for real or hypothetical patients - EHR decision aids and chart notation, according to American Medical News.

Meanwhile, the American Medical Association distributed $11 million in grants among 11 medical schools in 2013, reported Healthcare IT News. These awards were meant to address what the AMA perceived as "gaps in readiness for practice," which include education surrounding the use of EHRs and other technology.

Outside the clinic, EHRs are pivotal to forwarding disease information and other data to relevant disease registries, which serve as central resources to researchers. This functionality will grow more prominent because of monetary incentives from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' meaningful use program.