I had an interesting phone call by a fellow endocrinologist this past week. He is “not quite there yet” in deciding if a particular EHR system is right for him. He says he is so much faster on paper and is planning on just having the office staff scan his handritten notes into the computer system once they are done.
Firstly, this just continues the problem that EHRs are partly designed to solve: the pervasive problem of illegible office notes. I can tell you that most of the old medical records I receive for new patients coming into my practice are fairly useless if handwritten. Personally, I think legible writing should be a tested requirement at every level of becoming a healthcare provider: medical school entry, medical school graduation, residency entry and graduation, and bi-annual medical license renewals.
Secondly, my doctor friend probably has a surprise ahead of him, since I have seen the upcoming plans for later stages of meaningful use. One specific measure is going to be the use of electronic notes, not scans of handwriting. It will be interesting to see how this plays out upon implementation, as there are potentially a lot of provides out there who will try to use loopholes to maintain handwritten records as long as possible. I personally type and/or dictate using Dragon Dictation for iPhone, which eliminates any need I might have for writing.
Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.