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» Electronic Medical Records (EMR’s)

Electronic Medical Records (EMR’s)

We ran out of blank physician charts in the ED today, so we photocopied one and used those copies until the new order came in. As I used the photocopied “chart” today over and over again for each patient I repeatedly noticed the crooked angle of the lines and boxes that occured as a result of manually copying the chart. The wrinkles embedded in the ‘original’ we used to make photocopies had probably occurred as this single sheet of paper remained hidden behind a file cabinet where it had fallen God only knows when.  The only reason we even had a blank sheet to photocopy is because it had fallen behind the cabinet hidden from us until we discovered we had completely run out of blanks.  We only discovered it as the clerk desperately searched for a blank record to use.  We all worked on our patients and Emergency Department tasks oblivious to the fact that we had run so low on this particular form, so dark lines and blots were all over every official chart I used today.
The charts looked so unprofessional it was an embarrassment, even though few people would ever set their eyes on them.  My work is permanently recorded on these blemished forms, and it just does not look right. My handwriting always adds an element of disorder to the charts as well (I can either spend my time trying to write pretty or seeing patients).   It is while working in this backdrop that I repeatedly hear about the plans to digitize electronic medical records as I read the paper or listen to the nightly news.  This seems like an excellent plan, at first.  Then it hits home that many hospitals are simply scanning the hand written charts into their computer archives to satisfy compliance with digitized medical records, blotches, crooked lines and all.   In other cases patient visits are computerized from beginning to end, but often using awkward and user unfriendly systems.  I still love what I do, but I imagine the  affection I will have for my field if I had the tools to do it better and easier.

Medicine is easily 10 to 20 years behind almost every other industry in terms of technology. There are the usually excuses of not enough funding, and the need for patient privacy, but if credit card companies can maintain internet security and create user friendly interfaces in industries where hackers have infinitely more motivation to breech security systems then why can’t we?

214 Responses to “Electronic Medical Records (EMR’s)”

  1. Right on! What do you think about Google Health and other PHRs like it that create the ability for and patients to keep track of their health? Actually there’s a site called LIVESTRONG.COM partners with Google Health (one of their many partners) so that people can not only have access to their health records, but can also have immediate access to information and community about the drugs they take and/or conditions they share with others.

    Maybe its the industry on the whole that’s slow/resistant to change, but there are companies both tech and traditional brick and mortal (like Longs Drugs) who are trying to iterate with the times. At the end of the day, having a tough job like yours shouldn’t be further complicated by ridiculous, mundane, obsolete and ineffective tasks that photocopied forms and deciphering handwriting of others. Good luck and keep on fighting the good fight!

  2. One more thing…I wanted to send this link your way as it might be helpful to you. Cheers!
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  3. Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

  4. Hi Wendy, Thanks for your comment, and sorry for the tardiness of my reply… I am all for anything that might help solve this problem. I wish it could come from within the halls of medicine where we are best suited to know what information is important to make good medical decisions. Sometimes too much information can be as bad as not having enough information, especially if it isn’t organized in a intuitive way. On a busy shift the last thing I have time for is sorting through five feet of medical charts just to figure out if the patient having a heart attack has ever had a cardiac cath before or is allergic to aspirin. If that information was at my finger tips, however it can be tremendously valuable.
    So the google med recs are probably only going to be as good as the people using it. If doctors end up using it a lot they will know how to navigate to get right to the information they need. If the patient is technologically savy he or his family may be able to provide a better history by reminding themselves of details they would otherwise forget quite easily. So in a nut shell, I don’t think it will do any harm (except if hackers steal private info) and it could be very helpful.


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