First EMR

Saying “I hate EMRs” is like saying, “I hate seafood.”  There are just too many kinds to make sweeping generalizations.

I remember when I first heard the idea of using computers in a medical office.  Back in the late 70’s we had a VIC-20 at home*, and at school we had a TRS 80.  Personal computers were starting to be affordable by individuals (instead of those building-size contraptions only available to universities or large corporations).  The doctors for whom my mom worked were excited about the possibility of typing a patient’s symptoms into the computer and having a differential diagnosis print out.  Others scoffed at the notion, but nonetheless, people were starting to think that computers might be able to help in a medical setting.

Fast forward about twenty-five years.  The first time I saw a doctor using a computer for patient records was a good experience.  Instead of coming into the exam room with a paper chart, the Dr. Foote walked in with a laptop computer.  He loved his “new toy” as he called it.  The appointment went about the way a typical doctor’s appointment would go, but at the end, instead of writing notes in a paper chart, the doctor typed a few things into his computer.  On our way out, the receptionist handed us a typed prescription.  A fan of legibility, I thought that prescriptions printed from the computer were a fabulous idea.

Dr. Foote no longer carries a laptop into exam rooms.  He obviously reviews the patients’ charts before entering the exam rooms empty-handed.  He does whatever is needed, then returns to his desk to do his charting (computerized) before going on to the next patient.

From this patient’s perspective, it’s a process that works well.  It’s interesting that he does the same thing my family physicians does while using paper charts.

  • they review past history before coming into the room
  • they knows why I’m there
  • they focus on talking to me, not the chart (whether computer or paper)

I wish my other doctors who use EMRs did it as efficiently.

In the future, I’ll be writing about some of my other exposures to computerized medical records.
Have you had positive experiences with EMR?


*upgraded to a Commodore 64 when I was in high school


3 thoughts on “First EMR

  1. Our local pediatrician’s office has been using one for the last several years, as has my OB/GYN and both my rhematologists. We’ve had nothing but good experiences with them. It’s like magic how everything is already up-to-date when you walk in to see the doctor and legible prescriptions (and the ability to email prescriptions to the pharmacy) are such a goodness.

    The only downside is that in my town we have two different hospitals with different sets of doctors attached to each. Info traveling between doctors attached to the same hospital is fast & excellent, while info between the two hospitals it gets printed out and mailed.

    Other than that (which is a teeny tiny detail, really), it’s all been good. 🙂

  2. I’ve had very positive experiences with EMRs, which the VA uses exclusively for all of their patients. In May of last year, when I had to go to the VA ER for a dog bite, the doctors there had instant access to my medical records, which alerted them to be particularly careful of wound infection, since I’m taking RA medications that suppress my immune system and make me vulnerable. A few weeks later, the first thing my rheumatologist asked me when I saw him for my routine appointment was, “How’s that dog bite healing?”

    Likewise, when my PC doc noted a high calcium level in my bloodtest last year, the endocrinologist she referred me to had my records on the screen when I arrived. And once again, my rheumatologist was also able to tailor his care for me later, with the new treatments in mind.

    I find it comforting to know that if I need any care–particularly emergency care–the doctors have everything medical they need to know about me right there where they can use it to give me the best, and safest care.

    As a nation, I believe we need EMRs to be available for everyone. It’s logical, cost effective and most importantly, saves lives.

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