Meaningful U’s


Meaningful Use was a vision for EMRs that in many ways turned out to be a joke. Consider my list of Meaningful U’s for medical providers instead.

When electronic medical records became mandatory, Federal monies were showered over the companies that make them by way of inexperienced, ill-prepared practices rushing to pick their system before the looming deadline for the subsidies.

The Fed tried to impose some minimum standards for what EMRs should be able to do and for what practices needed to use them for.

The collection of requirements was called Meaningful Use, and by many of us nicknamed “Meaningless Use”. Well-meaning bureaucrats with little understanding of medical practice wildly overestimated what software vendors, many of them startups, could deliver to such a well established sector as healthcare.

For example, the Fed thought these startups could produce or incorporate high quality patient information that we could generate via the EMR, when we have all built our own repositories over many years of practice from Harvard, the Mayo Clinic and the like or purchased expensive subscriptions like Uptodate for. As I have described before, I would print the hokey EMR handouts for the Meaningful Use credit and throw them in the trash and give my patients the real stuff from Uptodate, for example.

I’d like to introduce an alternative set of standards, borrowing the hackneyed phrase, with a twist. MEANINGFUL U’S for medical providers:

Unbiased, Understanding, Unflappable, Unhurried

Like the software Meaningful Use items, these may be hard to attain, but especially in today’s healthcare environment, they seem worthy of striving for.

Unbiased: Able to fairly represent alternative approaches to allow patients to make up their own mind about their care.

Understanding: Able to listen to patients concerns and reflect back that you “get it” and will work to help address them.

Unflappable: Able to, in Osler’s words, maintain equanimity in the face of the challenges of medical practice.

Unhurried: Able to use time wisely, therapeutically, without frenzy, to make the most of the most valuable resource we all have.

Now, isn’t that more inspiring?

Hans Duvefelt is a Swedish-born rural Family Physician in Maine. This post originally appeared on his blog, A Country Doctor Writes, here.