Why touchscreen computers are the future for electronic medical records

As I explore the latest EMR offerings, and read all the blogs and media releases for and against EMRs, I am forced to wonder, “Has anybody ever asked us doctors what we either want or need?”

Too often it seems the requirements of EMR’s are more suited to organizations, systems, and number-crunchers than to either doctors or our patients. I understand that the data is important, but why should the adaptation should be more difficult than conventional paper-based records for those doing the majority of the work?

So here is my humble wish list for the EMR that I really want to see – my imaginary “DREAMeMR”

1. DREAMeMR should enhance all administrative and data aspects of my practice, i.e. enable me to work faster and more effectively. A system that will write letters for me, create statistics, facilitate prescriptions, book investigations and call my patients back when either they or I have overlooked an appointment, without me having to do more than I am already doing. I am happy that all this data will enable other agencies to manage healthcare in a better manner, but don’t expect me to have to work harder to do it for them.

2. DREAMeMR must enhance my patient contact, not detract from it. I want to be able to maintain eye contact with my patient as I enter data – not to have to focus on my keyboard or screen while I type data into fields.

3. DREAMeMR must have an intelligent database that I can use – if I have forgotten the latest TNM staging of pharyngeal cancer, my EMR should be able to remind me. If I need a drug dosage, the EMR should be able to comply.

4. DREAMeMR should enable me to think and communicate more, and be able to record data more easily.

This sounds like a tall order, but I really don’t think it is. Why not hold onto what is familiar to all practitioners – the pen and paper system – but in a modern form, by using touchscreen technology?

A digital pen and paper system has freedom far beyond that of the conventional keyboard. Most doctors can write without paying direct concentration to the process – not so with typing.

I envision a touchscreen system where the stylus takes the place of a mouse, using handwriting recognition, where checking boxes can open new dialogues, recording data seamlessly and accurately, where a drawing can be included into the record. The possibilities are endless. The technology is here.

A move from pen and paper to touchscreen and stylus should prove far easier that that demanded by many EMRs already in existence. And for many of those, perhaps all that is needed is to develop a new interface?

With the surge of interest in touchscreen technology, like the upcoming Apple “iSlate” and others, wouldn’t it be nice to have an touchscreen-based EMR ready when these computers become commonplace?

Martin Young is founder and CEO of ConsentCare.

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