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“So much data-gathering, so little doctoring” – Did you read it?

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

The Los Angeles Times recently published an article by Dr. Michael P. Jones of Virginia about the changes technology has made to the healthcare profession. He worries that the uptick in electronic medical recording is changing (and not for the better!) the way doctors and nurses do their jobs, and how much attention they’re able to pay to the actual patient. Do we listen less now? Are we distracted? Is our workload out of control? Read on and let us know your thoughts…

Here are some excerpts from the article:

“I’m a stomach doc. I’ve seen thousands of patients, inside and out, for 25 years. I’ve done research, I’ve taught, I’ve been an administrator. And as the years rolled by, I’ve watched the healthcare industry begin to undo healthcare itself. It’s complex, cumbersome and bureaucratic, and the bigger the practice or the clinic or the hospital and research facilities — like the universities I used to work at — the worse the problem.

For a physician and his patient, the exam room visit is everything. Healing begins right then and there. The process of telling your story, being heard, being touched and feeling connected to your doctor is an incredibly powerful element of healing. While we’re bombarded with the latest and greatest discoveries and inventions of medical science, the fact of the matter is that most people who walk into a doctor’s office don’t have some horrible disease. They simply don’t feel well. My job is to listen and observe, to figure out who really does have something bad going on and who may simply be feeling the effects of life’s wear and tear.”

He continues…

“There’s a huge difference between that and the healthcare industry, which is more about industry than health or care. Third-party payors don’t really care what happens in an exam room. The visit that you, as a patient, have been anxiously waiting for could just as easily be shoes or oranges or pork bellies to these folks. It’s just a commodity. It’s just data. And now the industry wants it documented in a format that works for billers and statisticians but not so much for doctors: the electronic medical record.

That’s the note your doctor is probably busy pecking away at while you’re trying to explain what ails you. In theory, an EMR should make care better and more efficient. It’s falling pretty far short of that goal.”

And get to the heart of a major concern for nurses…

“For starters, a lot of the software is clunky and the way it asks for information is unnatural. It can take more time to complete the ‘necessary’ documentation for a colonoscopy or other endoscopic procedure than it took to do the procedure itself. Doctors and nurses and lab techs suddenly have to be data-entry clerks, filling in multiple ‘fields’ and negotiating drop-down menus.

I’ve seen nurses get so busy typing what they do, they can’t do it. I’ve watched when an alarm sounded, indicating that a patient was breathing inadequately — the sensor had simply fallen off the patient’s finger. The nurse, back to the patient and typing furiously, shouts ‘Breathe!’ without ever looking around. These aren’t bad nurses; they’re good nurses in bad situations.”

And concludes…

“I feel as if I’ve stumbled into a medical oasis. My time is spent being a doc rather than a scribe or grocery clerk ringing up a sale. My time is spent interacting with a person who wants my help; it isn’t diluted with a perverse treasure hunt for clinically irrelevant but EMR-encouraged information. I’m happier in my work than I have been in a decade. My patients now are happier than my patients then. Everybody recognizes and responds to good service, whether it’s in a doctor’s office or an auto repair shop.

I have no doubt that my little oasis will come under the thumb of the new era of healthcare. And when that happens, we’ll do our best to make it work for our patients. But for now, while it lasts, I’m going to enjoy being the kind of doc that I always wanted to be.”

Read the entire story here, then tell us, do you agree? What has changed about your job? How do you think this impacts the nursing profession as a whole?

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