Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.

One of the tech wonders of our age is the electronic health record, or EHR as known by those in the know. It’s supposed to be a one-stop shop for all a patient’s health information. It should include a history of illnesses and treatments, medications taken and taking, and current issues, pains, and complaints.

One thing the EHR lacks is an easy to use interface. You see, the physician uses this software albatross every day and can become bogged down with its eccentricities. In fact, your primary care doc averages 6 hours per day just on data entry. Thats more than half a typical 11-hour workday with 1.5 hours after they get off work. This explains the physician looking more at a screen than at the patient. Medicine has devolved into a data entry process. Forget bedside manner, MDs are now reduced to data entry clerks.

But I digress. While the above is true for your physician, it’s also true for you as a patient.

One of the “innovations” of the current crop of EHRs is a portal for the patient to input data. You know: What hurts? How long? Pick a number from 0 to 10 to describe your pain? Etc. It also offers way to collect and update medical histories, often with clinical terms used that are incomprehensible to those who somehow skipped medical school.

One thing they do offer, is a way to provide feedback. Here’s mine this week:

I feel the pain of anyone who must use this software to do their job. As an occasional patient user (and former designer of computer interfaces) I must share my frustration with the inadequacies of the Epic interface. It’s slow, unclear, balky, and far less than informative to the user than it should be.

Just trying to update some insurance information put me into a digital limbo with the interface requiring me to complete the process while simultaneously preventing me from doing so.

I have seen presentations on physician burnout where the EHR systems are a contributing factor. How can that be? Simply updating a patient chart requires extra effort outside of work hours. This is both unfortunate and potentially dangerous to patients as tired professionals are more prone to error.

I don’t know what the solution is, but it is probably not to be found in HTML, no matter what version. We need a different approach altogether.

And that’s the polite version.

Today, I had to update my medical history. It included issues that were “settled” six years ago. (I had surgery to fix a complaint, forever.) It included medications that suggested I am still taking strong antibiotics and pain killers. Of course, removing these errors not only included a two-step process but required an explanation. (I guess my comments got a little snippy after half a dozen such corrections. My apologies to the poor person who has to review all those.)

As I put it above, I don’t know the solution. But this new age of amazing technology isn’t.



Historian, informatician, novelist, and grandfather. Part-time curmugdeon.

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David Potenziani

Historian, informatician, novelist, and grandfather. Part-time curmugdeon.