Switching to Electronic Medical Records can Help You Save Money
I sit on the exam room table, listening to the crunch of the rolled paper beneath me as I await the arrival of my doctor. Watching the second hand of the clock slowly tick its way by, I ask myself the question that undoubtedly every patient in any doctor’s office has asked themselves; what is taking them so long? This is a slightly hypocritical question for me of all people to ask, as I am often on the other side, following doctors from room to room and getting frustrated at the apparent impatience of some patients. Don’t they know how much we have to do? Or really more accurately, don’t they know how long it takes to document all this?
EMR/EHR’s have been the move for most large medical practices and hospitals, and truthfully this makes sense. We as a society are becoming exponentially more advanced in the area of technology, so naturally the healthcare industry is not an exception. It is easy to assume that having electronic medical records should improve efficiency, speed, and communication, thus improving patient care. And the government certainly believes so, as the Obama administration’s health technology plan gave hospitals and physicians monetary incentives to begin implementing EMR’s in their practice, most certainly because they estimated the switch to EMR could potentially save the American healthcare system as much as $100 billion/year.
However, it is no secret that many doctors resent the electronic medical records method, lingering in the archaic ways of good old paper and pen. How stubborn and unprogressive of these doctors when all the benefits of going electronic medical records are obvious, right? Actually not quite. According to a study comparing 3,000 hospitals at various stages in the adoption of electronic medical records, done by Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, he found that there was little difference in the cost and quality of care amongst them.
And truthfully, I can vouch for this first hand. While I am certainly not an unbiased study measuring statistically significant differences across a large sample size, I still feel observations are quite reflective. In my time shadowing and working in a variety of doctor offices, it became apparent to me that regardless of whether the doctor was dictating, writing, using EMRs, or some combination of some, it seemed that they all took an incredibly long time. Especially because I noticed the EMR’s themselves have surprisingly flawed software with big and small nuisances that significantly increase the time it takes to record a visit.
While it seems that there are still some obstacles in both the actual efficiency of the EMR software themselves and the implementation of using EMR/EHR’s, one giant, slightly harsh factor keeps gnawing at me as a huge reason efficiency has not improved when going for electronic medical records that I feel is not taken into account as often as it should be – Typing skills. As a proud member of the millennials generation, everyone before us is a slow typist to me. You mean you can’t look at your patients while typing out what they say perfectly? You mean you can’t navigate a new website or software you have never seen before relatively quickly and easily because you are so used to doing so on a regular basis anyway? While this may seem a bit minimizing to the issues faced in EMR implementation, I keep noticing that all doctor’s I worked with could have seen nearly double the patient volume if they were just simply better typist.
So despite all of this, I can’t help but wonder if this all really boils down to a larger issue of technology growing faster than we are, and that one day a student will be working with me and rolling their eyes or stifling a sigh as I struggle to figure out how to use the latest EMR robot (for some reason robots are always in my painted picture of the future) who is probably super easy and efficient to use if I could just figure out how to work the damn thing.
Image from http://www.dmgfederal.com/healthcare-it-part-ii-electronic-medical-record-systems/