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The Role of EHR and “Attentiveness” to the Patient

by Andrew Scutro, Senior Associate, Communications

We concluded our 2012 User Conference two days ago here in Boston. While we emphasized a theme of care coordination this year, the importance of human interaction in the exam room was also top-of-mind.

During his keynote speech on Monday morning, Dr. Abraham Verghese reminded the more than 800 attendees and a few hundred athenistas how critical it is for a physician to be present during the exam, to converse with a patient and not interact through technology like an EHR. Despite the obvious benefits of technological innovation, such as advanced imaging, reliance and excessive focus on electronic tools can get in the way of “attentiveness” to the patient. And as Dr. Verghese said, “This is the great danger of health care in our time.”

For his contributions to “making health care work as it should,” Verghese was presented the 2012 athenahealth Vision Award.

The other recipient of this year’s Vision Award was Dale Pierce, practice manager at Rosedale Infectious Disease in Huntersville, NC. Rosedale cares for 2,000 patients, most of them HIV-positive, at a practice that does everything it can to make patients feel as comfortable as possible. They do it by being attentive in the way Verghese urges.

“The difference with Rosedale is that they don’t just treat the disease, they treat you as a patient,” Rosedale patient Sharon Cox told us during our recent visit to the practice. “They care about you emotionally. They care about you psychologically and spiritually and it kind of feels like a family.”

The second keynote speaker of the 2012 User Conference was Dr. Farzad Mostashari. As the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Mostashari comes at health information technology from the goal of bridging the gap between industry and government with the ultimate result of better medical care—and, thus, healthier Americans—through the use of EHRs.

Mostashari also tied in the importance of keeping the patient in focus. He noted, for example, the Meaningful Use measure that requires a doctor to give patients a clinical summary of the office visit, a requirement that would seem to provide the feedback patients want today and that Verghese champions. In commenting on this new sharing of information, Mostashari said, “A lot of you are saying ‘Gee, this is a chance to educate and have a process for understanding what the patient knows of their information. And you know what? Maybe we should make it easy for them to get their records electronically’.”

For all of you who attended the 2012 User Conference, we hope you learned a lot to bring back to your practices. Come back next year. If you’re not a client, become one so you can sign up for the 2013 conference.

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