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Electronic Medical Records (EMR)- Friend or Foe for Patients and DOCTORS!

Sounds cool, doesn’t it?  All of a patient’s medical information available with a couple clicks. That’s you, me and everybody else, eventually.

Where Are We Now ?

Whether we like it or not, our medical information is rapidly being input digitally. And as I’m sure everyone knows by now, the government has mandated it. The days of paper charts are dwindling. Have you been to your doctor recently ? How about the Emergency Room ? Chances are you have been exposed to this process already.  It might go like this.

” Hi,  I am calling to make an appointment to see Dr. Gronka.”

Receptionist: ” Great. Would you please logon to our website and fill in your information preliminary to the visit? ”

Many physician practices and hospitals across the country are facing this inevitable decision and are currently in a state of contemplation, investigation or implementation.

Advanced Aesthetics, PC and our primary hospital affiliate both recently took the plunge within three months of each other. Needless to say it was and is an exhilarating and, at times, exhausting exercise.   Does this really improve the delivery of healthcare to people?

Friend:

  • It does make patient data more instantly available and documentable. For example, a list of prescribed medicines and when the prescription was last faxed to the pharmacy can be easily retrieved.
  • It can improve patient care.  The culture results from six weeks ago can be quickly reviewed and may influence an upcoming antibiotic choice before surgery to decrease infection risk.
  • Images such as X-rays, pathology reports and even photos of medical problems such as a skin rash can become part of the medical record and available for subsequent review
  • It has the potential for another physician to have rapid access to a patient’s medical history, which may be extremely beneficial in case of an emergency

Foe:

  • It has a magnetic effect to make the physician a data enterer. It can challenge the medical professional skills of even the most savvy technology users who happen to be doctors.
  • It has that same effect on all the healthcare providers who are required to assist in the data entry process and can increase the time it takes to deliver the same level of care that was provided with good old paper charts
  • More importantly, it has the SAME effect on the PATIENT, who also must become familiar with the new user interfaces and devices being used for entering this information. Examples include Ipads, kiosks, and online portals.
  • It depersonalizes that ever so important healthcare provider-patient interaction.

 

Is it a good thing then?

Like all new ideas and technologies, it takes time to process them, learn them and figure out how to implement them. It will be a challenge for all of us in healthcare going forward to put electronic medical records in their proper place, remembering that delivery of high quality care to each patient remains our primary focus.

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