Moving from paper to electronic medical records holds tremendous promise for greater efficiency and accuracy, but the new technology is not a cure for all that ails modern medicine, two Boston doctors write.
Dr. Pamela Hartzband and Dr. Jerome Groopman of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, writing in tomorrow's New England Journal of Medicine, warn that computers make it too easy for doctors to lose focus on the patients before them. Residents and doctors can cut and paste one another's notes into the record, sacrificing the benefit of fresh eyes looking at a patient and distilling what is most relevant. Lab test results can flood the record with no selectivity on what matters for the current problem.
But the most disturbing effect of digital records happens in the examination room, "to patients who, during their 15-minute clinic visit, watch their doctor stare at a computer screen," the authors write.
Not only is the patient put off, but the doctor is less able to think through a problem when not observing a patient. Groopman's book "How Doctors Think" analyzed the common errors in thinking that lead doctors to misdiagnose patients.
"Practicing 'thinking' medicine takes time, and electronic records will not change that," Hartzband and Groopman write in the journal. "We need to make this technology work for us, rather than allowing ourselves to work for it."
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|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
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