Laptops in the Room

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I visited my rheumatologist in January for a routine yearly exam. The doctor used a laptop and a microphone. He dictated what I told him right after I said it. Last year he did not have a laptop. I saw my primary care doctor in March for my yearly physical. She used her laptop keyboard to record my answers to her interview questions. Last year she did not have a laptop. All of the staff who work for my home care agency use iPads when they do their visits with our patients. We have been using an electronic medical record since 2007, and specifically with the iPad since November of 2011. All patients in our local hospitals have experienced staff working with computers as part of their hour to hour routine.

Technology for health care documentation is quickly evolving and is here to stay. This is an important provision of the Accountable Care Act. In fact, health care organizations of all types who are not using an electronic record are penalized with less reimbursement if they have not adopted an electronic medical record. The intention of the electronic health record is to provide real-time access to health information at the point of care. This allows for complete information to assist clinicians help patients make important medical decisions.

Discussions with real-time data is meaningful. Patients are supported with the accurate, available information for better decision making. Studies have shown that health information technology can improve patient’s ability to follow recommendations and reduce medication errors and cost.

So what’s at issue? Healthcare professional staff are often ill-prepared for use of this technology. The system used may not be the most used friendly. Most of the negative experiences patients have related to computer use is due to the negativity portrayed by the health care professional using the device.

And that’s the point. It is important to recognize that the computer is a tool to help with information management. Doctors using the computer effectively are pulling up lab work completed and going over the results with the patient and their family. The patient is positively reinforced when their hard work sticking to a low salt diet has an effect on their lab values. The patient who endured ill side effects of chemotherapy is rewarded by a clear PET scan picture viewed at the followup visit with their doctor.

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Other benefits to the health care consumer is access to healthcare records any time they want to view them. Many hospitals’ health record systems are changing and the healthcare consumer will have access to it by using a login and password to confidentially view personal health records, both current and from the past using electronic access. If you haven’t received information about how to access your personal health record coming to you in the mail.

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