While I used to spend much of every day cursing my computerized medical record (EMR) for its constant breakdowns and shortcomings, there are a few good things about it.  One indispensable computer task was when it reminded me to call a patient and prompt him to get his follow up chest x-ray.

Your new MD is responsible for several thousand patients’ healthcare.  Each patient generates tons of paper (computer data points).  The part of medicine patients never see is the paperwork.  In the case of Mr. X, he was ill in April and I ordered a chest x-ray.  The results of that chest x-ray came back a day later and were scanned into his chart by a clerk.  The clerk then sent the scanned results to my desktop for my review.

In the computerized world of medicine, orders have to be reconciled and processed, passing through multiple hands.  Once on my desktop, I reviewed the results and, because they were marginally abnormal, contacted my patient with instructions to repeat the x-ray in 3 months.  A new order for a repeat chest x-ray was then sent to the hospital and an electronic reminder was set to alarm today.

The beautiful part of the EMR kicks in and your MD is notified.  An alert notice lit up on my desktop, my patient was called and will do his part.  Hopefully, the x-ray will be normal and this story will have a happy ending.

I’ve always told my patients that if they can make something good come out of something bad, then the bad was not so bad after all.  The computer’s ability to send reminders may be its only true value.  Funny, the bad still seems just as bad.  I guess I was wrong!

The moral of today’s story is not that EMRs are bad.  Today’s point is that there is a mountain of paperwork/computer input associated with every visit.  Your doc needs your help!  How can you help?  Be a responsible patient.  If you have a smart phone, set your own alarms to remind yourself when important follow up appointments need to be made and keep them.  Learn to use your patient portal and keep track of your results and your doc’s comments.  Most of all, forgive your doc for typing away at the keyboard during your next visit.  He/she does not like it any more than you do.

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