Friday, September 25, 2009

An Old Dog’s Computer Quest

By Shawn Vuong

Technology.  I love it.  

I am a proud member of the millennial generation (aka Generation Y).  While we aren't known for our humility or strong work ethic, we are known for our extreme integration with technology.  As time goes on and more of the Generation Y hits the workforce, we will be expecting businesses to be updating to fully integrated all digital business schemes.  In medicine this means the adoption of the electronic medical record.  

While this seems like a huge step for older physicians still in practice (the baby boomer generation), this is hardly what we (as the Generation Y) envision as our ideal digital medical record.  As time goes on, and our generation starts becoming the majority of the medical work force I for see the trend digital medical record becoming much more than some doctors could ever imagine.  Fully integrated, international, digitally accessible and protected medical records.   If I go to vacation in California and get hurt, I expect the ER doctor to be able to read my full history since my birth on his EMR at his/her hospital.  If my child gets a test done at Mayo, I want to see the results online as soon as my physician gets them.  We may have a long way to go before we get to this kind of integration.  But I believe this is the future of medicine.  


By Richard P. Holm MD

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Yet today I found myself in front of a Brookings Health System computer with a personal nurse tutor trudging through our new test version of an electronic medical record. 

Indeed, for about a year we have been gradually getting used to seeing parts of the hospital record on computer screen.   Finally this month we are about to take the leap of dropping our paper orders and progress notes, and going entirely paperless in the hospital. 

We have to be prepared so that no patient is harmed by this transformation.  That is why the physicians and PA/NPs have spent many meetings this spring developing orders sets, which are pre-defined orders for specific illnesses.  That is why we have been having two hours a week of educational meetings all summer long on the topic.

It will be difficult for many of us to make this change, especially since we have been doing things on paper for so many years.  At first it will take us all a lot more time.  But the whole process is not only taking time, it means our hospital has to make 
 a significant commitment both in personnel and money.

So why would we spend this kind of time and effort?  Along with many who are so capably helping us through this, are two RN experts.  Today I asked them both just what will result from all this effort, and their answers were straightforward.  “It’s all about patient safety and accessing information.”  Safety, for example means avoiding dangerous medication allergies and interactions.  Access, for example means seeing the patient’s Problem List, prior test results, and medication list whenever needed.

Still, the electronic medical record cannot look into the eyes of a frightened person in pain, listen for a clue to solve a problem, provide for relief of suffering, and then find a way to healing and better health.  That’s something this old dog better not forget.

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