Doctors used to have to fill out a checklist for every step in a physical exam. Now, they can click one button that automatically places a comprehensive normal physical exam in the record. Another click brings up a normal review of systems — the series of screening questions we ask patients about anything from nasal congestion to constipation.
Of course, you shouldn’t click those buttons unless you have done the work. And I have many compulsively honest colleagues who wouldn’t dream of doing so. But physicians are not saints.
Hospitals received $1 billion more from Medicare in 2010 than they did in 2005. They say this is largely because electronic medical records have made it easier for doctors to document and be reimbursed for the real work that they do. That’s probably true to an extent. But I bet a lot of doctors have succumbed to the temptation of the click…
And then there are the evil twins, copy and paste. I’ve seen “patient is on day two of antibiotics” appear for five days in a row on one chart. Worse, I’ve seen my own assessments of a patient’s health appear in another doctor’s notes. A 2009 study found that 90 percent of physicians reported copying and pasting when writing daily notes.
More on how electronic medical records make some things too easy.