[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Electronic medical records (EMRs) are increasingly becoming a necessary tool in health care. Given their potential to influence every aspect of health care, there has been surprisingly little rigorous research applied to this important piece of emerging health technology. An initial phase of the COMPETE study, which is examining the impact of EMRs on efficiency, quality of care and privacy concerns, involved a rigorous "critical pathway" approach to EMR selection for the study. A multidisciplinary team with clinical, technical and research expertise led an 8-stage evaluation process with direct input from user physicians at each stage. An iterative sequence of review of EMR specifications and features, live product demonstrations, site visits, and negotiations with vendors led to a progressive narrowing of the field of eligible EMR systems. Final scoring was based on 3 main themes of clinical usability, data quality and support/vendor issues. We believe that a rigorous, multidisciplinary process such as this is required to maximize success of any EMR implementation project.