I often have an overwhelming sense of guilt that I work in the healthcare industry, but am not a clinician nor have I ever had an Inpatient experience to gain a clinical perspective. There are many out there that will say I am ill-equipped to do my work because of this; however I do my best to stay versed of clinical and IT literature. I know many of you Healthcare IT consultants out there do the same to compensate for the lack of a clinical background. As a side note, if any of you have recommended reading, send my way, I would love to take a gander.
I digress. Back to my dilemma of a lack of clinical background or Inpatient experience. This changed when my mother was recently and unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer resulting in a bi-lateral mastectomy and an Inpatient overnight stay. Before I move on, she is doing extremely well and rapidly kicking cancer. I stayed with her throughout her time in pre-op until she was discharged the next day and to my delight, in the midst of worry, her hospital just recently went live on their EMR. I reveled in the chance to see an EMR in action and following are a few of my observations:
Patients are weary of filling out the same forms and don’t really care that you just went live on your EMR. If you or a family member are a cancer patient, you know that you have to visit the hospital, your primary care physician, your oncologist, general surgeon, plastic surgeon, radiologist . . . and you’re filling out forms with your medical history every time. I’m yawning at this problem that doesn’t seem be going away anytime soon. However, the offices that did have an EMR (plastic surgeon!) were a breeze. Filling out medical history forms online was slick and oh so, convenient!
I’ve read quite a bit of literature detailing concerns about doctor patient interactions or the lack thereof during the use of an EMR. During my mother’s experience, she didn’t feel ignored or disconnected from physicians or nurses charting while speaking with her. She appreciated the ability to sign her consent forms on a tablet PC and felt like clinicians had a more complete picture of her case and medical history. Ah ha Mom you are right! Or right in an ideal Healthcare IT world.
Now, for my last observation: Nurses. I’d like to reference an article written by Mr. HIStalk in May of 2006 titled “Vendors Should Make Software that Crusty Night Shift Nurses Can Love.” Ok, hold, laugh break real quick hahaha because that title has me in stitches. The premise of his article is that nurses are paid to care for patients and are talented at such as opposed to being expert computer users andthat vendors should make EMRs easier to use. All my friends who are nurses complain constantly about EMR charting. During my mom’s day and night in the hospital (yep, I was on the hospital cot – so comfy – insert eye roll here) not one nurse used the computer in the room with the EMR right there. Each of them pulled the little paper out of their scrubs, wrote down her vitals, medication, etc. and charted it later at the nursing station. But the chart is right there next to the bed! Oh, woe is me, please use the computer. I was disappointed to see this and would agree with Mr. HIStalk. Come on vendors, make a nurse friendly EMR.
Finally, a big thank you to the eighth floor night nurses of St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, ID for taking such good care of my mom. I forgive you for avoiding the computer at all cost.