MSHQ 056 : Taking Care of Patients in Today’s Electronic World

Session 56

In today's episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Regina Harrell, an Internal Medicine physician and an assistant professor in the College of Community Health Services at the University of Alabama. She plays a significant role in the geriatric rotation for family medicine residents at the Capstone Village, an awesome place to learn about geriatric care.

Regina recently published an article in the Pulse Magazine, which was also featured on NPR's Shots Health News website. Her article calledWhy A Patient's Story Matters More Than A Computer Checklist was an avenue for her to voice out her frustration with electronic health records (EHRs).

Today, you will learn more about the in-depth look at what practicing medicine is like in the modern age of electronic medical records systems, the frustrations we have as physicians, and some of the pros and cons. At the end of the day, patient care is clearly what matters.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Regina:

Regina's journey to becoming a physician:

  • Growing up with his father as a nursing home administrator so she always had a hundred extra grandmothers
  • Signing up for the nursing assistant class at the nursing home and getting exposed to patient care
  • Wanting to be an oncologist and shadowing one but realizing it wasn't for her
  • Shadowing a geriatrician and loving the practice
  • Starting full time with geriatrics and currently being a part-time geriatrician

Her premed struggles:

  • Always picking the hardest of everything and applying to medical school at a very challenging, highly competitive year
  • Applying to 12-15 schools and getting into one of them (a humbling experience after being offered scholarships to more than one place as an undergrad)

Do doctors still do house calls?

Yes, apparently. House calls actually allow a more personal patient care interaction

The biggest struggles of medical student on rotation:

  • Balancing all the demands put on them
  • Work hour restrictions while absorbing as much information as they can
  • Technology can make it more difficult for them to wade through different electronic medical record systems

About Regina's article Why A Patient's Story Matters More Than A Computer Checklist:

  • No perfect way to keep a record
  • Paper charts also have their own flaws
  • Federal government's mandate for EMR's to become part of patient records otherwise physicians will be paid less
  • The challenge of documenting when you're far away without any phone or internet connection

EMRs' role in healthcare:

  • They exist because the government mandated it for you to get paid
  • No programs have been written to make doctor-patient relationships better
  • Now they've become a barrier to patient care instead of helping patient care

Will the EMR system get better:

Regina hopes physicians will revolt against using a system that is not helpful to patients

The importance of having a business experience as a doctor:

Learn more about business administration and marketing or take business classes to help you think outside the box more.

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

  1. Some parts of the EMR system really work very well such as being able to look up a patient's lab and x-ray results online.
  1. Whatever your career is, find the inside that is the “calling” part like holding a patient's hand and knowing you're the doctor at their house whenever they need you as with Regina's case. Relationship building is the best part of medicine.

Links and Other Resources:

NPR Article – Why A Patient's Story Matters More Than A Computer Checklist

Regina Harrell, MD Bio

The Crimson White Article

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