Computers are handy tools.
With all the discussion of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or Electronic Health Records (EHR – which autocorrect tries to change to HER), I don’t understand all the enthusiasm without any mention of how the drawbacks will be addressed.
There are, of course, some benefits. The idea isn’t just to make it easier for individual doctors to keep track of data. The idea is to share data. Data such as lab results, MRI and x-ray images, and what prescriptions a person has filled are all objective. Read the numbers, view the images, confirm that medications are being purchased – these things can help patients by making it easier for doctors to do their jobs.
What about sharing other information? For years doctors have made observations and written corresponding notes about those observations. Sometimes, though, doctors are wrong. Being wrong in one paper chart in a single location isn’t desirable, but it isn’t earth shattering. The doctor eventually (one would hope) finds the right solution, the correction is documented, and all is well. OR perhaps the patient goes somewhere else, a different physician finds the solution, and the previous (wrong) doctor is never seen again. Maybe it doesn’t matter if wrong information is locked in a file cabinet somewhere in a dusty basement.
It’s very different when erroneous information is documented and then shared with others. Wrong observations by one person can be digitally transmitted to a multitude of others, and that misinformation can haunt a patient to the grave.
EMRs mean that patients need to know exactly what their doctors are writing, and make sure that no errors are allowed to stand so that future providers aren’t influenced by bad information.