Do As We Say, Not As We Do?

I have written in several publications (including this blog) about increasing concerns regarding the usability of electronic medical record software (aka electronic health record software in the US). At a recent conference I was pondering my position on this matter as I listened to one of the speakers when I suddenly released that I was one of the few people in the room who wasn’t using pen and paper to take notes (I was using my iPad). Interesting, I thought to myself. I wonder if these same people type up their notes when they get back to the office, either to share with colleagues or perhaps even to enter into a CRM system of some sort. If they don’t type them up, how often do they refer to them? Do they ever try to search for notes they took in the past?

While it might be stretching an analogy, there are some similarities between the process of taking notes at a meeting and the recording of patient data during a medical exam. Perhaps the same reasons that we are more comfortable using pen and paper are similar to the reasons that physicians offer when expressing their reticence to use EMR software. At the very least, making the change to from analog to digital note taking involves letting go of an approach with which we are very comfortable and that we have used for a very long time, just as it for physicians making the change from paper to electronic records.

Is it possible that we are asking physicians to “Do as we say, not as we do?” I can tell you from firsthand experience that trying to go paperless in my day to day business operations has not been without its challenges. My recent foray into getting rid of paper notes is not the first time that I have tried to do so. Over the past two decades I have tried several different technologies, each with limited success. The purchase of my new iPad prompted me to try again and I think that I might actually succeed this time.

So, who else is going to join me and do what we are asking our clients to do?


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