The ping goes off right as she grabs the door handle to leave her office. It’s been a long day and she’s meeting a friend for dinner in an hour. She knows that she should turn the knob and keep walking, but the thought of a message sitting there unread is simply unbearable. Without looking, she knows who the e-mail is from. Once upon a time she used to scribble her notes to him in a hurry. Paper in palm, pen moving quickly between her fingers, she always wondered if he took her written words seriously. These days, she feels like a lot of the guess work has been taken out of the equation. Now that most of their correspondence is electronic, she has become used to a response that assures her that he is listening. Their days of meeting in person have become scarce. The time he would steal away from work and home to see her was putting a strain on his life. This new way of communicating has been significantly beneficial to them. They are able to stay in touch and reach each other when necessary and their relationship, if anything, has improved.
They are both incredibly thankful for the electronic health record (EHR).
Dr. Green is a General Practitioner who decided at a young age that she wanted to devote her life to helping heal people. Having witnessed her brother struggle with Type 1 Diabetes his entire life, her heart ached for how helpless he seemed. All he wanted was to live a normal life, but “normal” for him meant time out of school for doctor appointments and Friday nights at home instead of enjoying sleepovers. Maybe that is why her patient Daniel holds a special place in her heart. She looks at him and sympathizes with him the same way she did with her brother. She takes his condition seriously, and wants to do everything in her power to make his life as “normal” as possible.
Sitting down at her desk, Dr. Green shakes the mouse as the screen lights up. She clicks on the message from Daniel that reads, “Glucose levels are good this evening. Exercise seems to be helping. Thanks for the suggestion!” A smile rises as she replies, “That’s great news! Thank you for letting me know. Be sure to get plenty of rest and touch base with me next week.” With that she locks her office and leaves work feeling fulfilled, and even a bit hopeful.
Viewed as one of the most promising tools for improving the overall quality, safety and efficiency of the health delivery system, health information technology (HIT) has taken the medical world by storm. Our country is seeing a remarkable surge in the number of physicians jumping on board the electronic bandwagon. It is estimated that by the end of this year, more than 80 percent of family practitioners will have a functional EHR in place. Once skeptical, many health care workers now boast about how fluent their practice has become now that it is speaking with HIT. With broad and consistent use of HIT, doctors are seeing that the quality of health care is improving. Patient engagement is becoming the norm. Health care costs are declining. Administrative efficiencies are increasing. Access to affordable care is expanding … and the plague they used to call paper work? It’s a thing of the past.
Between the government urging medical professionals to achieve meaningful use and patients wanting better access, it is easy to forget about what is really at stake here – the heart of the physician. Whatever we use to increase the efficiency of care, we have to make sure that it works first and foremost for the people who are working day in and day out to keep us healthy. We need to keep in check the needs of the professionals who spend their lives helping improve ours. We need to make sure that they are not so overwhelmed by the administrative demands of running a practice that they are no longer able to focus on the heart of their profession – the patients. Whether implementing EHRs to achieve meaningful use or using a patient portal to encourage better patient engagement, physicians are benefiting exponentially from the many facets Health IT has to offer. Finally we have a way that doctors can marry their love for their profession with the rest of their life.