In a way it’s too bad that there’s so much emphasis these days on electronic health records for physicians. Sure they’re useful, and of course record-keeping in the 21st century shouldn’t be paper-based, but today’s systems are mainly costly, challenging to implement, and can have a painful impact on workflow and sometimes on productivity.
On the other hand, I’m happy to see the growth of point-of-care information tools and decision support systems, such as UpToDate, MedLink and SimulConsult. When physicians embrace such tools, they are empowered to handle a broader range of situations without a referral and to get the diagnosis and treatment plan right the first time. That is far more certain to reduce costs and improve quality than EHRs, although there is no inherent conflict –and even some synergy– between the two.
I expect to see a great deal of progress in coming years as links are established among information tools, allowing physicians to jump back and forth between narrative accounts and decision support software, or using decision support software to help in ordering and justifying tests. I also hope we’ll see tools to enable join doctor/patient decision making, unifying patients’ preferences and unique perspectives with physicians’ clinical knowledge.