Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about spending time in the hospital and how it felt to be the patient’s family in a hospital with a full-scale EMR. Almost two years to the day I found myself back in the hospital, this time with my father instead of my husband. My father had had a heart attack, and over the next three weeks he was admitted to the hospital three times for different episodes. Each occurrence started in the ER and ended in admission to a different area of the hospital. Once again, I found myself in a hospital system with a full-scale EMR.
Once the initial crisis was over, I started to compare the time with my husband then and the time with my dad now and look at how things had changed for facilities as they got used to the EMR. I know that for a hospital, using an EMR and learning all the computer systems they need to know can be a daunting task. I have watched and admired the dedication of HIM directors as they work through this process. I know that doctors and nurses did not go to school to learn to type; they went to school to help save lives, so learning this new task in addition to what they already had to do was difficult.
Unfortunately, two years later I did not find a great change in the level of connectivity I felt to the physicians and nurses. There were some things that were great. The admission of my father was now done in his room. A person with a computer rolled it in and admitted him to the hospital. This was far better than what I had to do with my husband.
The fact that my father is very hard of hearing didn’t help matters, though. The computer could not be placed close enough to him and most questions ended up being asked of me. I could see frustration in my father’s eyes as he was already struggling with what had happened.
The problem is that everything has to be entered into the computer for each visit to the room. That means that, as before, the computer, rather than the patient, is always the main focus during each encounter. I guess as a patient or a patient’s family member, we need to accept that this is what the future of healthcare is going to be like. The connection and eye contact with our doctor or nurse is not going to be what it was in the past.
I also experienced a surprising disconnect in a major hospital system. All his doctors were connected to the system and they could all look at his records — or at least they should have been able to. My dad ended up going into an assisted living facility that is part of this system, which should have made everything easy. Ironically, I found myself driving all around town picking up test results that his primary care doctor could not find. What I was told was that this was because the scanning was so backed up they weren’t in his record.
I guess I was hopeful that, two years later, I would find a greater comfort level with the EMR that would provide the family and patient with a better feeling of connectivity with the medical staff. It still isn’t where it should be. My hope is that as healthcare and medical records are still evolving, hospitals continue to work towards a way to help the patient and their family regain some balance between the computers that truly are important and provide the personal touch we all need.
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