7 Christmas wishes for electronic medical records

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a very good doctor all year. I have checked all my boxes and aced all my meaningful use requirements. This year, I’m not asking you for anything fancy. I just thought you might be able to instill some kindness and good will into the people who designed the user interface of my EMR. Maybe, with your help, they would come to see how a few minor tweaks could make the practice of medicine safer and more efficient, and my day a lot more enjoyable than it already is:

1. I wish I could see a routine laboratory panel, like a CBC or a CMP, in one view without scrolling inside a miniature window. That would save time and help me not miss abnormal results.

2. I wish the patient’s next appointment date was displayed next to any incoming report I have to review. That would help me decide if I need to contact the patient about the results or if I’m seeing them soon enough that I can talk about the report then.

3. I wish I could split my computer screen so I could see an x-ray or consultation report or a hospital discharge summary at the same time as I type or dictate the narrative of my office note. That would help me quote them correctly.

4. I wish, when I open a patient’s actual visit note for today, the place where I do my documentation, that I could automatically see at least the beginning of the latest of every category of information we have received — latest labs, x-rays, outside reports and phone calls. It takes too much time to go searching in the places for each category separately just in case there might be something recent to catch up on in the visit.

5. I wish my EMR would know that prn medications, such as nitroglycerin, are not meant to be used for only a limited time, like 30 or 90 days, and would agree to e-prescribe them without a duration. If I could do that, they would not disappear from the medication list all the time.

6. I wish my EMR would automatically display the patient’s kidney function and allergies next to where I pick what medications to prescribe. That would make prescribing quicker and safer.

7. I wish my EMR wouldn’t alert me to drug warnings and interactions that are too obvious to need reminders for. I mean, any doctor would know that adding a second diabetes pill can cause low blood sugar (that’s why we do it) and that combining two drugs that can cause fatigue may cause even more fatigue! More intelligent warnings would be taken more seriously; now my trackball finger is automatically poised to close the “warning” pop-up, because I’m expecting it to be irrelevant.

I’m sure if I tried, I could think of an even ten wishes, or maybe even twelve: one for each day of Christmas. But these seven things illustrate the underlying, fundamental wish I have: that my EMR will evolve to be more user-friendly. I wish, now that the basic functionalities of EMRs are in place, that somebody comes back to people like me and asks how to take this thing to the next level.

“A Country Doctor” is a family physician who blogs at A Country Doctor Writes:.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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