I have always enjoyed discussing state of healthcare and its affairs with physicians, EMR consultants, health IT gurus and basically anyone with professional knowledge that cares to throw a bone. However, recently I got engaged in a friendly debate with a group of friends, unrelated to the world of healthcare. It was fascinating to learn their views on the healthcare reform along with the turn towards EMRs and electronic information exchange. There is much to share, hence I have decided to write a series of blogs regarding just this. In this post I will be covering exam room encounters and the general perspective of non-medical professionals about the world of health IT and Electronic Medical Records.
As a patient, your view about the healthcare reform is simple, ‘computers are better at storing information, less prone to human errors and help save time, which is why electronic medical records are important’. I had to educate some members of the group to extract their opinions about the subject matter, but nonetheless it was a unique experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the feedback from people outside the care structure.
Most of the participants had not yet encountered a physician using an EMR within the exam room, while the few who had done so found the interaction quite satisfactory. I understand that my sample data is limited, but it was enlightening nonetheless to understand some of the concerns a patient might have. This is how one participant described his encounter, “It was fine. I could see the screen so I knew what the doctor was doing. It did take him a few seconds to type, but the encounter seemed really structured as if he had prepared a set of questions beforehand.”
Physicians are quickly improving exam room technique and ethics while documenting on the EMR. I myself have experienced that change. Sharing the screen with the patient and educating them simultaneously can add to the patient’s experience. While I may not have enough information to determine whether or not electronic medical records are making patient encounters more structured, the group of patients that I met, seemed to think that they have. It is also true that most physicians like to maintain an air of professionalism in the exam room, which sometimes results in robotic encounters. Although, with that said, structure and standard of procedure is not a bad thing in medicine.
After explaining the basics of the clinical decision support (CDC) system in an EMR, I invited some questions from the group. Most of the participants seemed content with the structure, admitting that the EMR system (read more) will enable physicians to make more informed decisions. One group member expressed his relief, confessing that he would still prefer physicians to have the ultimate control over clinical decisions as he was not ready to leave his health to computers. There is a good feel about the healthcare reform and although most individuals are unaware of how it affects them, the government’s backing of health IT adoption has provided reassurance to the general populous.