Monday, February 28, 2005

When the computers crash

Interesting commentary on EMR.
In an essay published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002, internist Steven Angelo wrote about the day his hospital computer crashed. For a few hours, the intensive care unit staff was unable to track a patient's blood pressure or heart rate by looking at a monitor. The chairs in the unit's nursing station, he wrote, slowly emptied out: The doctors and nurses had gone to sit with their patients.

In our clinic, the computer monitors are placed so that the doctor can watch the screen or the patient, but not both. Frankly, it's not much of a contest. The monitors are mesmerizing, with their colors and windows, boxes and beeps, menus of pills ripe for the prescribing. Walk down the row of offices and you see the patients looking at their doctors, and the doctors looking at their screens.

Last week, when the system crashed, we looked at our patients instead.