Another Example: Astronomically Expensive EMR in Place, Paper Use At the Bedside

Posted on April 15, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Just the other day, I went on sort of a rant complaining about the excessive hype around iPad use in healthcare. I wasn’t suggesting that using iPads is a bad idea,  but I was venting about the hyperbole around Apple’s latest darling.

That being said, I’ve just had a chance to be reminded why putting iPads into the hands of clinicians, or at least smart tablets, is long overdue.

Just a few days ago, a relative was in a large suburban hospital which has sunk big bucks into GE’s  Centricity (one of those big gun EMRs our illustrious publisher John Lynn calls “Jabba the Hutt” products).  While I sat in the room with my friend for a while, nurses came in and out a few times to take vital signs, document medication allergies and check in on my friend’s level of pain.

Do I even need to say that despite the frighteningly powerful engine sitting there rumbling within the desktops at the nurses’ stations, every one of these interactions was documented on paper?

I can only imagine a few ways that these nursing notes could get into Centricity, and none of them fill me with confidence:

*  Nurses may be scanning in their documentation as they create it, then they or someone else double-checks the OCR results

*  Transcriptionists could be entering data from paper notes into the Centricity system, with all the attendant potential for error this creates

*  The hospital — which is otherwise extremely automated and seemingly very efficient — has just decided to create a “church and state” environment where some forms of data get into the EMR immediately and some stay on paper

Don’t get me wrong: I realize some of you reading this may already have or be developing  solutions to solve just this problem.  The systems I’ve seen to date, however, seem to be aimed at smaller doctors’ offices and probably wouldn’t scale to a huge tertiary care facility.

I do wish there were better point of care data collection options out there. If, in fact, tablets like the iPad are the best fit, I swear I’ll buy a few for physician friends myself.  But shouldn’t hospitals and practices be doing that?