I read a few months ago that the number of available iPhone apps had exceeded a million, with new apps now appearing that are intended to help sort through the mountain of other apps. We have reached the age of meta-apps.
Parenthetically, I have always loved that “meta”concept. In college, when people asked why I majored in philosophy despite the fact that I was pre-med, I explained that my intention was to become a metaphysician.
In any case, there are now many thousands of medical apps, and the number seems to be growing arithmetically! (Perhaps it was exponential at first, but I suspect the viral replication phase for apps has peaked, so anyone who uses the term exponentially at this point probably needs to review their 8th grade algebra.) In spite of this seeming plethora of handy apps, there are still a few I have yet to encounter and would like to see created, although I will probably receive some comments on this post alerting me to the fact that some of what I am looking for has already been produced.
So here are, in no particular order, 7 apps I would like to see:
This July will mark the 16th anniversary of the installation of our electronic medical record.
Yup. I am that weird.
Over the first 10-14 years of my run as doctor uber-nerd, I believed that widespread adoption of EHR would be one of main things to drive efficiency in health care. I told anyone I could corner about our drive to improve the quality of our care, while keeping our cash-flow out of the red. I preached the fact that it is possible for a small, privately owned practice to successfully adopt EHR while increasing revenue. I heard people say it was only possible within a large hospital system, but saw many of those installations decrease office efficiency and quality of care. I heard people say primary care doctors couldn’t afford EHR, while we had not only done well with our installation, but did so with one of the more expensive products at the time. To me, it was just a matter of time before everyone finally saw that I was right.
The passage of the EHR incentive program (aka “meaningful use” criteria) was a huge validation for me: EHR was so good that the government would pay doctors to adopt it. I figured that once docs finally could implement an EHR without threatening their financial solvency, they would all become believers like me.
But something funny happened on the way to meaningful use: I changed my mind. No, I didn’t stop thinking that EHR was a very powerful tool that could transform care. I didn’t pine for the days of paper charts (whatever they are). I certainly didn’t mind it when I got the check from the government for doing something I had already done without any incentive. What changed was my belief that government incentives could make things better. They haven’t. In fact, they’ve made things much worse.
I support over 3000 clinicians in heterogeneous sites of care – solo practitioners, small offices, multi-specialty facilities, community hospitals, academic medical centers, and large group practices.
In every location there is some level of dissatisfaction with their EHR. Complaints about usability, speed of documentation, training, performance, and personalization limitations are typical. Most interesting is that users believe the grass will be greener by selecting another EHR.
I’ve heard from GE users who want Allscripts, eClinicalworks users who want Epic, Allscripts users who want AthenaHealth, and NextGen users who want eClinicalWorks.
The bottom line from every product I’ve used and everyone I’ve spoken with is that there is no current “perfect” EHR. We’re still very early in the EHR maturity lifecycle.
What is the perfect EHR? I’ve written about my best thinking, which has been incorporated into the BIDMC home built record, webOMR. (and has dissatisfied users too)
However, after listening to many “grass is greener” stories, I believe that what a provider perceives as a better EHR often represents trade offs in functionality. One EHR may have better prescribing functionality while another has better letters, another is more integrated and another has better support. The “best” EHRs, according to providers, varies by what is most important to that individual provider/practice, which may not be consistent with enterprise goals or the needs of an Accountable Care Organization.
One day, about 5 years into using the electronic medical record in my practice, I came to the realization that I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was sitting throughout most of every office encounter facing a computer screen, my back to the patient on the exam table across the room. The joy of face to face interaction with people, the real reason I went into medicine in the first place, had been replaced with the more pressing urgency of data entry.
My revisit routine went something like this – I’d enter the room, briefly greet the patient (undressed and sitting on the exam table) and then, apologetically saying “Let me just open your chart”, I’d log on and begin interacting with the more immediately demanding presence in the room – the EMR. I’d turn around as often as I could to look at my patient, but mostly I listened but kept my back to her and I typed. After which I’d rush over to her side, do the exam, then head back over to the computer to make sure I got all her orders, refills and charges in as required. A brief goodbye, and I was on to my next patient.
As more and more mandatory clicks were demanded from the EMR to prove I was a good doctor – smoking history reviewed (click), medication reconciliation (click, click, click,click), problem list review (erase duplicates from ENT , remove resolved problems, add today’s, then click that I had reviewed what I just did) – the actual moments of face time with my patients had became smaller and smaller, till they were almost an annoying distraction from the real task at hand – finishing my charts.