Whether or not doctors like it, the U.S. healthcare industry has embraced EHR technology, and in most cases, medical groups depend on it for a number of reasons. Now, the industry may be taking the next step in this direction, with the AMA deciding that it’s time to enshrine EHR use as part of medical education.
At its recent annual meeting, the AMA released a new policy embracing two somewhat contradictory notions. On the one hand, it encouraged med schools to train students on using EHR technology, while on the other, underscored the need for future doctors to get their faces out of the computer screen and engage with patients.
According to the trade group, some medical schools actually limit student access to EHRs. The AMA contends that this is a bad idea. “Medical students and residents need to learn how to ensure quality clinical documentation within an electronic health record,” said AMA board member and medical student Karthik Sarma in a prepared statement. “There is a clear need for medical students to have access to – and learn how to properly use – EHRs well before they enter practice.”
That being said, the group’s report on this subject concedes that there’s a long way to go in making this happen. For example, it notes that many med school faculty members aren’t offering students and residents much of a role model for the appropriate use of and practices in working with EHRs.
To address this problem, the new policy urges medical schools and residency programs to design clinical documentation and EHR training. It also recommends that the training be evaluated to be sure that it’s useful for future medical practice.
The AMA also suggests that med schools and residency programs provide faculty members with EHR professional development options. These lessons will help faculty serve as better role models on EHR use during interactions between physicians and patients.
That being said, there is an inherent tension between these goals and the realities of EHR use. Yes, training students to create good clinical documentation makes sense. At the same time, there are good reasons to worry about the effects of EHRs on student and resident relationships with patients. Unfortunately, this problem seems to be unavoidable as things stand today. Either you train budding physicians to be clinical documentation experts or you encourage them to use EHRs as little as possible during patient encounters.
In short, we’ve already learned that we can’t have both at the same time. So what’s the point of telling medical students that they should try to do the impossible?