Practicing medicine should be exciting, exhilarating, challenging and fun. At least it used to be. In the modern era of big data, practicing medicine is mostly tedious.
This past weekend, I visited with my friend and mentor, Dr Wayne Bell. Wayne is a grandmaster of medicine. He is a renaissance man with a broad spectrum of expertise and endless energy. When debating new guidelines or exploring cutting edge therapies, Wayne usually sports a big smile and child-like enthusiasm. Visiting with Wayne is uplifting as we spend hours exploring the depths of our love, the practice of family medicine.
This trip was different. Wayne is 3 months into the world of electronic medical records and it is wearing his spirit out. While he has conquered the EMR in record time, watching him mime his usual routine accentuates the ridiculous routine physicians nationwide are forced to do countless times every day. Click here, drag here, scan this, import that, fax, and send to the portal are all tasks necessary to get paid.
So, why do we do this? Certainly not to improve patient care! There are no studies that show any improvement in patient care or safety due to the EMR. Certainly not because it’s exciting, exhilarating, challenging and fun. It’s not! If you think we do it to get paid, that’s a big part of the answer because getting paid is important. Unfortunately, the EMR is time consuming and costly, steals critical time from patient care and saps the life out of the practice of medicine.
As I watch my senior level colleagues retire early, I worry about the future of my profession. As I struggle to see my patients and input endless mounds of useless data, I try to preserve my love of medicine. It’s not easy. For the time being, I am committed to my patients and practice style.
On the way back from Ohio, Renee asked me what I would do if I could do anything I wanted to. My answer was instantaneous. I would open a cash only practice. I would toss the computers, fire the insurers and Medicare and take care of patients the old fashioned way. I would sit, pen in hand and write as I faced my patient and listened to his story. I would give him as much time as he needed and charge a fair hourly rate. I might even find the ability to make house calls.
How’s that sound to you?