You are in the exam room with your family physician for your annual physical. He is inquiring about changes you may have noticed to your health over the past year. He performs a thorough exam and possibly orders further testing. You noticed when he entered the exam room he didn’t have your paper chart with him as he had in past visits instead he carries a laptop computer. In fact, he no longer records his findings in that paper chart he is entering them in that computer.
This is just one way the world of health care is changing and our clinicians along with it. With the advent of Health Care Reform came mandates for Electronic Medical Records or EMR use. Mandates for implementation deadlines, and even guidelines for what would qualify as a “useful” system are outlined in The Affordable Care Act. Is this really an enhancement to the quality of care your physician, hospital or clinic provides?
Let us look at implementation. The first of these regulations become effective October 1, 2012. The goal of the EMR was to reduce paperwork and administrative costs leading ultimately to an improvement in quality of care. As mentioned earlier, your physician documented your signs and symptoms and his findings, with pen and paper, eventually transcribing them in a note tucked away in a paper chart. The EMR has changed that process entirely for him. What effect will that have on his office work flow? Consider this: what impact do process changes have on your daily routine?
In short, will this wave of the future truly improve the way your physician delivers health care to you? If EMR’s intent is to be a cost saving measure can it deliver on that promise? Will the long term advantages outweigh the growing pains initially experienced by clinicians? Only time will tell if EMR can be the panacea the federal government intends.