Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Data Input Is Difficult

A recent survey by the Texas Medical Association (TMA) (one page summary here -pdf and the survey results here - doc) shows an increase in the number of people reporting use of an EMR(43% in 2009 up from 33% in 2007). There is also a continued trend of physicians expecting to implement an EMR that is being helped by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act with 59% of respondents looking to qualify for these incentive payments.

But it is the likes and dislikes of existing users that makes for interesting reading. 76% of respondents like electronic charting which I interpret to be the accessing the clinical data in digital form, the ability to process and manipulate and re-purpose in different formats. And features clinicians don't like..........
data input difficult or time consuming
Shock horror - clinicians don't like being data entry clerks (I can't see my patient's because I am at the Screen Entering Data and Doctor Please look at me not Your EMR). None of this is surprising and this remains the most significant barrier to adoption of EMR's in the busy and complex clinical setting. Designing a brilliant user interface to capture clinicians input into discreet fields may suit the needs of the data driven EMR but it falls well short of the clinical needs and in particular the physicians need for information. Physicians are pushing the federal Health and Human Service department to include the narrative as part of the proposed regulations for electronic health records and rightly so. As the eWeek article "Doctors Say Narrative Missing from Proposed EHR Regulations" stated:
No matter how good [EHR records] are, you'll never get the flavored nuance of the patient's [situation] if you don't have an unstructured note," said Dr. Steven Schiff, the medical director and service chief of cardiology at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, in Fountain Valley, Calif
The comparison between a template generated note:
The occurrence was one hour prior to arrival. The course of pain is constant. Location of pain: Head leg. Location of bleeding: None. Location of laceration: None. The degree of headache is mild. The other degree of pain is moderate. The degree of bleeding is negative. Mitigating factor is negative. Immobilization no backboard in place and no cervical collar in place. Fall description tripped. Intoxication: No alcohol intoxication. Location accident occurred was home
and the narrative created by a physician:
The patient is a 74-year-old female who presents with a complaint of fall, 74-year-old female presents with complaint of neck pain, headache. She states that she had mechanical fall at home where she tripped and fell downstairs, approximately 9 steps and landed on her back. She complained of shortness of breath right after the event. She noted that she had pain in her left ankle and left knee. She is not sure whether she had loss of consciousness and the patient further complains of the pain in the right wrist
makes this point with 97% of the survey saying they prefer the human generated note. It's unlikely that that any EMR system will pass the Turing Test anytime soon!

Patients too will start to insist on getting the full Health Story as Steven Schiff points out in his article on in the Huffington Post "Have you Thought About Your Health Story?". As patients increasingly become partners int eh care process rather than the traditional bystander information will need to be transferred between the patient and the clinicians and computer template generated notes are not going to work. There's a good reason that the:
written patient medical record had its birth in the 19th century and as such, has remained almost entirely unchanged for well more than 100 years. During this time, literally everything else in medical care has evolved
It was a very effective means of communication and has served the healthcare providers well but the transition from paper to electronic remains a major issue and the importance of the narrative in the progress note is essential:
From the outset, we need to agree on the critical importance of such notes. It is necessary to tell a patients story, and to assess the significance of that history. At this time, it simply is unrealistic to think that all healthcare givers will develop the typing skills needed to function adequately in this environment. At best, it will require a full generation of doctors, nurses, technicians, and therapists to come and go before that is as ubiquitous a skill as handwriting is now. It is clear to me that the answer to many of the physician challenges that surround electronic medical record adoption and full patient utilization of these records lies in the use of voice recognition software

Electronic health records coupled with voice recognition technology allows me to document in the chart while I am seeing the patient. The note is often created with the active participation of patients and family members; and is then finished at the end of the patient encounter and is faxed to the referring doctor. Additionally, a copy is printed out at the checkout desk and handed to the patient as they leave the office. The notes are error-free for the most part, and are immediately available in the chart. There is no reading, correcting, signing, and mailing to be done. Most importantly, the notes can be highly descriptive, capturing not only the raw facts, but the nuanced details that are unique to that patient.

You're unique; your health record should be too
Right on! EMR's need speech has an integral part of capturing clinical data. Turning that into shareable information that can be accessed and consumed by the data centric EMR is the function of the Healthstory Project that sets out an open Clinical Documentation Architecture (CDA) standard for Common Document Types. Tied to speech understanding and you bridge the divide and overcome the 50% of physicians surveyed who say they dislike the EMR because:
"Data input difficult or time consuming"
The pieces are all in place - we just need to put them together intelligently into the existing workflow and healthcare process.

What are you doing to capture or collect patient clinical documentation. Do you use voice or templates. What do you love or hate about your clinical system?