Electronic Medical Records Cleaned My Desk

For the past few weeks, several patients have commented to me how remarkably clean my desk is.  Usually the flavor of the comments range from amazed to inspired, but I think some people have been downright flabbergasted and just don’t know what to think of it.  For all of statements, I think in general there was an agreement that “Wait a minute, something is definitely different in here.”   They seem to be used to being in offices piled high with papers, charts, and other disheveled things of the like.

Even though I began my private practice in 2009 based on the use of electronic medical records, for a long time I had a lot of things that I just didn’t put things away after I took them out to read.  Textbooks look up clinical guidelines and recommendations on how to address complex patient issues, recommendations for new products left behind by sales reps, mail that was opened but not filed appropriately, etc.

Then, one by one, day by day, my desk got a bit less busy.  Less papers needed to be printed out, more could be done, signed, and faxed back without ever touching ink to paper.  In short, efficiency came to town in the form of digital records and faxes.  My inner child that loves the look of clean showroom furniture took over and I just got rid of the clutter, bit by bit, until nothing remained except the computer.

I largely credit the digital age for this.  During the workday these days, a few pieces of paper come across my path, but in the end none seem to survive anymore.  The simplicity of a clean desk in a doctor’s office illustrates a beautiful symbiosis between the practice of age-old medicine and the modernization of the electronic work force.

About the author

Dr. Michael West

Dr. Michael West

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 in 2009. He can be contacted at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.


  • I guess the new question that you’re going to ask yourself is how messy is your digital life? There’s something motivating (or demoralizing at times) about a stack of charts that need to be completed. You don’t get that same motivational influence with a stack of digital charts that need to be completed.

  • It’s kept pretty well in check on most days, although there have been days when I’ve had to either work late or just delay getting back to some people, reviewing faxes, etc until the next day. It’s never delayed me more than a 24 hour period though, thankfully. Thank goodness we are now expanding to accomodate the practice’s growth and let me get back to having more breathing room. And yes, seeing a pile of paper on your desk vs. seeing a bunch of messages and faxes to just check off the list is more comforting. They usually go by in a snap.

  • Do you ever find it hard to remember to finish paperwork if it’s not out on the desk? That’s one complaint I’ve heard with non-paper systems. . .

  • Hi Sarah. I don’t have much paperwork come across my desk that I don’t immediately address. I tend not to let things wait. Occasionally I need to put something in my bag to take home and finish there.

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