Posts Tagged ‘electronic medical records’

One of the big efforts to improve the quality of medical care in the United States is the implementation of electronic health records. By putting our medical charts into electronic media, doctors will have more uniform access to our health histories, can be given ticklers for important screening tests, and can be told of potential drug interactions with medicines that were prescribed by other doctors, along with many other potential benefits. You can learn more about the advantages [and disadvantages] of electronic health records on my Getting Better Health Care radio program: “Will the electronic medical record revolutionize health care?.

These benefits may help improve patient satisfaction, too.

However, electronic health records have the potential to negatively impact patients’ medical experiences.  DrScore.com research has shown that the No. 1 factor that drives patients’ satisfaction with their doctors is the patient knowing he or she is seeing a friendly, caring doctor.  If patients find their doctors buried in a computer screen, punching buttons and typing, it could take away from the sense that the doctor is providing the patient personal attention.

There are some things doctors can do to manage the situation.

  • First, don’t put the computer on one side of the doctor’s chair and the patient on the other.  If you do place things that way, the doctor has to  turn their back to the patient to see the chart, and that is simply not good for patients’ impressions of their doctor.  I know, because that’s how things are arranged in my new office!
  • The other thing that doctors can do, especially if their office is like mine, is to acknowledge the problem to the patient. Tell the patient, “These new electronic health records are helpful in so many ways, but one thing I don’t like about them is that I have to turn my back to you to look at your chart.  I hope you will understand and don’t mind.”  Comments like these let patients clearly know that they are being seen by a physician that cares about them and about their feelings.  Letting patients in on one of these little secrets about medical office functioning also lets them feel like they are a part of the process. And they are part of the process — they are the very center of it.

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Each day brings new joys from the electronic medical record system.  Being able to pull up graphs of patients’ laboratory results makes it so easy to assure that patients aren’t having a serious reaction to medication.  Doing refills is a snap — no more writing out prescriptions — just a couple of clicks, and it is done.  Checking for drug interactions and allergies is automatic.

And I don’t know if it is all that advantageous, but it is certainly cool to click “Send Electronically” and know that prescription will probably be ready at the pharmacy by the time the patient gets there.

We talk more about the use of electronic medical records to improve health care on my radio program, Getting Better Health Care.

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Oy. The people running South Shore Hospital in Massachusetts must have had a bad day. On July 19, the hospital reported that back-up computer files containing personal, health and financial information on 800,000 people may have been lost.

Electronic record systems have been a boon to the U.S. economy and are poised to help improve medical care in many ways. There are promises of better health care, less error and lower cost. But, like everything else, it comes with potential problems too.  Dr. Dan Siegel explains more about it on the Getting Better Health Care radio program

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Every day patients come to my office having already researched their condition on the Internet. The iPad is another innovation that will change how people access information. In addition, numerous apps are being developed that help people address their health care needs. These technologies will make it easier for us to communicate with our physicians and can make us more involved health care consumers.  

As these resources become more widely used, I anticipate that more and more patients will be giving their doctors feedback through the DrScore Web site. More doctors will use the Internet to communicate with patients. More and more, I find myself Googling with patients to help show them pictures of rashes and to find medical information on their condition. In addition to all its other benefits (and limitations), electronic medical records lets me easily show patients graphs of how their blood test results change over time. 

Medicine is evolving. Enjoy the ride! 

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