Why it’s so hard for doctors to create electronic medical records

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  • Karen says:

    A recently published study in at the University of Calgary cites the negative impacts of computer use in healthcare. The research team collected observational data from three ICUs and also talked to patients and families. It was also suggested that more research is required to determine the effects on health outcomes.

  • Len says:

    I certainly have not seen any increase in productivity in the use of electronic medical records. Personally my productivity has declined by about twenty percent. As the emrs get more complicated and the teams get bigger the emrs get slower. At times they crash and for variable periods of time we have no records (5-60 min). They are expensive. If you have lots of money to buy new computers every 3-4 years you can upgrade to keep things reasonably fast but that is a lot of money. In my first 15 years of family practice paper charts worked quite well. It was faster to flip through an organized stack of paper than to wait for a screen to repeatedly refresh. Along with EMRs seem to come an obsession with documenting every little thing. Doctors don’t look at patients, my mom calls her family doctor “doctor computer”. We have these passionate promoters of emrs but if you know these people they tend to also be passionate about technology. It is often their hobby. Nothing wrong with a hobby but I would rather go for a run. It is not unusual to see family doctors who see ten patients in a half day and 15-20 in a full day the usual 20 years ago was 25-35. No wonder despite the fact we have graduated thousands more family doctors people still have problems with access.

  • Jonathan Marcus says:

    My experience in converting to electronic records has been poor. Overall I find that that I am less efficient and often feel more like a data monkey and less like a doctor. Our system is slow, requiring too many clicks to do simple tasks and waiting for windows to open and the printer to warm up…. Over and over again.

    As for your example of being able to search for patients who need PAPs, our system can’t recognize a PAP from any other lab test. So I have to open up a separate part of the EMR and enter patients on by one into the tracking system… more time staring at a screen and not at patients.

    While computers have advanced and COULD be helpful as medical databases, our system looks like it was built in the early 1990’s by a high school computer club… and then then evolved by add-one that don’t plug and play well together. It’s constantly crashing. And for all this we pay tens of thousands of dollars, some of which are subsidized by tax dollars. Too make matters worse, to my eye, the EMRs haven’t seemed to evolve much at all over the past ten years.

    It’s too bad that physicians don’t advocate for far better systems.

  • K. M. Laycock says:

    Well, he’s wrong. Reduced productivity, increased time required to complete tasks, reduced Dr – Pt ‘actual’ person contact time, reduced eye contact, reduced quality of clinical information entry, reduced physical examination of pt, increased test ordering, increased costs, and no evidence that ‘quality of care’ had improved.


Paul Taylor


Paul Taylor is a health journalist and former Patient Navigation Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he provided advice and answered questions from patients and their families. Paul will continue to write occasional columns for Healthy Debate.

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