Letter: Readers comment on Medical Economics stories

December 17, 2010

Letters discuss maintaining hobbies and use of electronic health records.

'Dance' into a new hobby

I heartily agree with Dr. Gregory P. Zydiak's advice to "get a hobby" ("7 tips to increase your professional happiness and productivity," October 22 issue). However, I would like to recommend another "difficult and physically demanding" activity: ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing helps to develop one's mental skills as well as physical coordination and balance. You can learn alone, or with your spouse or significant other. It gets you off the couch and out of your house to places where you can meet new and interesting people. You can have a lot of fun without hurting yourself or anyone else. However, if you do have a need to "defeat opponents in a close-up and personal way," you can enter ballroom dancing competitions-something I did. Maybe the best part of dancing is that when I am in the studio at a lesson, or at a social dance, no one cares that I'm a doctor. I'm just another lover of dance.

ALETHA OGLESBY, MD
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Dr. David McClure's letter was surely heartfelt and sincere ("Human interaction over EHRs," [Talk Back], November 5 issue). However, I would like to give him and our fellow readers some reassurance and encouragement from a fellow family physician who had serious doubts, fears, and dread of the electronic health record (EHR) system.

I have been using the NextGen EHR system since August 2009. Prior to that, I had no experience with EHR systems. In fact, I still write with a fountain pen and personalized stationery. After my first day of daunting and stressful training, I came to the realization that the tablet computer in front of me was just a tool to record my encounters with my patients, just as a chart and pen were in the past.

My nurse records the same chief complaint of "run-of-the-mill sinus infection" on the screen, just as she would have on a piece of paper. The computer doesn't change the fact that the patient has a wife with "metastatic breast cancer to the brain." We are all too familiar with the experience of a patient's chief complaint having nothing to do with the true nature of the visit or the serious underlying problems.

I don't have my back to the patient at any time. The tablet PC sits in the exact same spot on the counter that my paper chart once occupied. I don't peck away like a courtroom transcriptionist. I maintain the same engagement with my patients that I did in the past. We all know doctors who have no bedside manner or connection with patients, regardless of the type of record system. Dr. McClure and other passionate practitioners will not lose their "art" of medicine.

We have all heard the proposed benefits of EHRs. Allow me to mention a few tangible observations. My patients, both young and old, have been fascinated and impressed with the system. They love the electronic prescribing system, which can even fax straight to the mail order plans for them. They also love the way I can show them all of their past labs and vital signs at a glance, for a quick comparison on a screen without sorting through a mess of papers. Another benefit is that I am no longer asked by my staff and the pharmacists to interpret the handwriting of my colleagues. It saves them and me time, and therefore money.

As Dr. McClure poignantly wrote, we need to "remember our true roots" as family physicians. The patient behind that exam room door has the same expectations of us come paper, abacus, or supercomputer.

MARTIN E. KLEIN, MD
Flemington, New Jersey

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