How long did you wait to see your doctor the last time you were sick? 20 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour? During your visit, did your physician spend more time staring at their laptop instead of at you?
These complaints are all too common today. But they both are the result of physicians and their office staff struggling to learn and comply with the new laws regarding Electronic Medical Records (EMR’s) and new insurance reimbursement requirements. More parameters must be met and more metrics delivered than ever before.
EMR vs EHR
That big file of papers your doctor used to page through in the exam room is now a digital file called an Electronic Medical Record (EMR). It contains all of your medical history from your visits at one medical office.
You also now have an Electronic Health Record (EHR), which goes beyond a single provider’s office – it’s your comprehensive history from many hospital and doctor’s office visits, across all health systems.
The intent behind EHR’s and EMR’s is a good one: over time, they track your medical data and can be used to indicate whether you’re due for a preventative visit or screening, monitor how you’re treated by other providers and improve the overall quality of your care. The new laws intended for your physician to be able to access your EHR during your visit to make a more accurate diagnosis, to avoid duplication of diagnostic tests and possibly catch a symptom or pattern you may be unaware of.
But the path to this medical interconnectivity has been rocky, to say the least. Progress has been hampered by reluctance on the part of so inter connectivity me providers to share their information and software from vendors that is incompatible. Some software vendors, unable to keep up with the sweeping changes, have gone out of business, leaving practices scrambling to find new vendors.
Additionally, physicians are now required to follow a checklist regarding your complaints so that he or she can be properly compensated for your visit by your insurance provider. Doctors and their staffs are getting bogged down in the minutia of compliance.
Change can be painful, but a good thing in the long run.
On the upside, many new changes are on the horizon, such as virtual house calls – for minor complaints, you can now communicate with a physician via your computer or mobile device. Some doctors, in an effort to get back to the quality care of old, are abandoning insurance altogether and introducing different models like Direct Primary Care. In this model, you pay a fixed fee every month based on your age and health, and the practice only sees a certain number of patients. This relieves the provider of having to squeeze in as many patients as possible each hour, and the doctor can spend more time with each patient without being tethered to a predetermined checklist for your complaint.
So during your next visit to your physician, if your doctor is looking at their laptop more than at you, don’t take it personally. It’s now part of their job – they’re feeling pain, too.