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The New Frontier of Medicine?

by Allen L. Gee, MD, PhD, FAAN, neurology specialist

I hear the same sentiment frequently from my physician colleagues. They’ll say something like, “I am just an expensive data entry person.”

All the bells and whistles, drop-down boxes and multiple windows to navigate in their electronic health record (EHR) require them to focus more on the technology than the patient. Contrary to intent, technology is slowing them down and distracting them. A lot of self-employed physicians using an EHR as well as those working on a production basis will feel this pain.

Rest assured my friends, it is not just you and your inability to use a computer or to change your workflow—as IT experts and administrators would have us believe. The EHR industry has failed to deliver the solutions. Could this possibly be the reason so many doctors have failed to adopt an EHR? (In 2007, the U.S. Office of National Coordinator for Health IT reported that about 50% of EHR implementations failed.)

There is no debate that better medical decisions can be made if all relevant patient information is available to the provider during the interview and examination of the patient. But somewhere that focus was lost. Health care is about the patient and when I am in the clinic and working with a patient it is all about how I can help the patient! My time is better spent interacting with the patient, digesting the information and then making a diagnosis and treatment plan, rather than entering data into an EHR.

HIT must facilitate health information acquisition and utilization (HIAU) and not merely digitally duplicate dysfunctional paper processes. It must offer the patient's relevant health information in meaningful ways, not just for the patient's clinical presentation but to allow full use of the provider's expertise.

As she has on several topics, my 12-year-old daughter recently told me how it should be. She told me I just needed a virtual representation of the human body on my computer screen and if I am interested in the brain I could just touch the brain and a window would open for any completed images. I could enlarge the window, flip through the images of interest, slide it out of the way and look at the EEG, labs or vitals. Of course, the same would work for any organ system or disease.

I'm told technology is not the barrier. Great! Where do I get my apps?

The author is an athenahealth client.

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