The use of computers in everyday medical practice has finally reached the tipping point.
EHRs are secure digital repositories of patient information–doctors’ notes, lab and X-ray reports, and letters from specialist physicians. They are an electronic version of the paper chart. Newer, more advanced EHRs are integrated systems and allow doctors to order tests, generate bills, communicate with patients, and run analyses on aggregate patient data. In hospitals, nurses use EHRs to administer and record medication dosing and document other patient care activities.
Though medical practices have a high burden of proof to claim their bonus–the Department of Health and Human Services is still in the process of fully defining just what constitutes ‘meaningful use’–there is now conclusive evidence that the carrots are working. Recent data demonstrates that solo and two-doctor offices, which still comprise over half of all medical practices in the U.S., have seen the biggest jump in EHR adoption over the last six months. These small shops are reaching the conclusion that they must participate, as they risk being left behind technologically and financially.
As a practicing primary care doctor, I feel I am slowly being pulled into the apostate camp. Our apostasy is not about EHRs; that game is all but over. Rather, there’s a pervasive sense that our use of technology has become a wedge between doctors and just about everyone else: Nurses. Other doctors. Worst of all, our patients.