Skip to main content

Electronic Medical Records: Promises Made

The Obama administration will be devoting billions of dollars to promote electronic medical records (EMR) for doctors. Today, EMR vendors run in and out of doctors’ offices trying to hawk their software. Each one claims to be the holy grail of electronic records. I admit that the concept seems intoxicating.

The promise of a paperless office is certainly seductive. The notion of physicians and patients having access to their medical records from any computer would improve medical quality and efficiency. Every doctor knows how frustrating it is to see a patient in the emergency room when the relevant medical records are sitting in the primary doctor’s office or in a hospital across town. Conversely, EMR permits the primary physician, who may not have been the hospital treating physician, to be easily updated after hospital discharge when the patient returns to his office. Many patients I see today in my office don’t know their medications and can’t recall prior illnesses or even operations. EMR solves this issue.

EMR also permits easy analysis of patient data to track important medical benchmarks including colon cancer screening, Pap smears, immunizations, mammograms and other preventative tests. Doctors like me who still use paper, rely on old fashioned methods to track who is due for a screening colonoscopy. EMR technology could permit our office to contact all patients who reach the milestone age of 50 alerting them that their colon cancer screening experience is beckoning. This would be superior to our current manual mail & call technique. EMR also eliminates the frustration of a missing medical chart. Electronic files are also more current, since data is entered much faster than paper reports. Sending medical records to other physicians’ offices could be accomplished with a keystroke, which traditionally can take weeks. EMR also eliminates the inscrutable penmanship of physicians, which at times needs CIA code breakers to decipher.

With EMR, patients could have their complete medical data, including EKGs and actual x-ray images on a personal flash key. With this technology, a doctor on a cruise ship could see your chest x-ray from 2 weeks ago.

Over time, EMR saves money by improving office efficiency, reducing repeating medical tests and reducing postage expenses.

If this system promises physicians a medical utopia, then why doesn’t every doctor sign up? The New England Journal of Medicine reported in their April 16, 2009 issue that only 17% of physicians is using some degree of EMR in their offices. Hospitals are much further behind in acquiring these systems. See the next posting to learn why most physicians haven’t pulled the EMR trigger yet.


  1. Maybe it's just a part of the New World Order.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Most Doctors Choose Employment

Increasingly, physicians today are employed and most of them willingly so.  The advantages of this employment model, which I will highlight below, appeal to the current and emerging generations of physicians and medical professionals.  In addition, the alternatives to direct employment are scarce, although they do exist.  Private practice gastroenterology practices in Cleveland, for example, are increasingly rare sightings.  Another practice model is gaining ground rapidly on the medical landscape.   Private equity (PE) firms have   been purchasing medical practices who are in need of capital and management oversight.   PE can provide services efficiently as they may be serving multiple practices and have economies of scale.   While these physicians technically have authority over all medical decisions, the PE partners can exert behavioral influences on physicians which can be ethically problematic. For example, if the PE folks reduce non-medical overhead, this may very directly affe

Why This Doctor Gave Up Telemedicine

During the pandemic, I engaged in telemedicine with my patients out of necessity.  This platform was already destined to become part of the medical landscape even prior to the pandemic.  COVID-19 accelerated the process.  The appeal is obvious.  Patients can have medical visits from their own homes without driving to the office, parking, checking in, finding their way to the office, biding time in the waiting room and then driving out afterwards.  And patients could consult physicians from far distances, even across state lines.  Most of the time invested in traditional office visits occurs before and after the actual visits.  So much time wasted! Indeed, telemedicine has answered the prayers of time management enthusiasts. At first, I was also intoxicated treating patients via cyberspace, or telemedically, if I may invent a term.   I could comfortably sink into my own couch in sweatpants as I guided patients through the heartbreak of hemorrhoids and the distress of diarrhea.   Clear

Do Doctors Talk to Each Other?

 I will share with readers a recent occurrence between me and another doctor that was both rare and refreshing.  I was serving as the gastrointestinal consultant on one of the doctor’s patients.  I performed a scope examination of the stomach and obtained some routine biopsy specimens.  The pathology results were abnormal, but benign.  No urgent action was needed, but a full airing of the significance of the results would require a conversation between me and the patient in an office visit.  I notified the patient that there was no medical threat at all and we would unpack it all during his next visit. The referring physician wondered about this delay, which perhaps is a different style from other gastroenterologists (GI’s) who he works with.   (My guess is that other GI’s may opt to handle the issue with the patient on the phone or via the portal. I think, however, that there’s too much complexity to fully address this issue in this manner.) So, here’s what the referring doctor did.