I just read a pretty interesting article called…..”Goodbye paper…Hello EHR” And, having been a part of an EHR implementation, I can tell you that paper just does not magically disappear. Expectations need to be clearly laid out when converting from paper charts to EHR charts. Yes, the permanent record of the medical history is now stored electronically; however the reality is that during the course of an average day in a normal practice, paper is still a reality. Schedules are printed out, summary histories are printed out……the medication list for patients are printed out….even a vitals chart may be printed out.
In the same way paper didn’t disappear when computers came into vogue….paper does not disappear with EHRs. What you really gain from a computer or an EHR is better organization of information and the ability to query that digitally stored information for reporting needs. Not to mention the added value of being able to access the information quickly. Operations will go through some critical changes with the advent of an EHR, but paper may well not see a significant decline for years. The reason for that is simple……people have grown used to having that sheet of paper in front of them and will continue to rely on paper until they develop the “habit” of using the computer routinely and for routine tasks.
I have been using a computer since the 80’s……..but as I look around me…..I have sticky notes to remind me to do things…….I have legal pads where I have made notes from conversations and conference calls and even a piece of paper I carry around with me with all the passwords I have had to create with the various password driven programs I now have. So while I am more efficient and quicker at accessing information…….I am still a slave to some paper. I read many newspapers and articles on-line…..but also get hard copies of some……
Those forms that physicians need to treat patients? The patients account of their medical history is still written down….it is just accessed electronically on the Practice web site and printed out. (of course if the office would store that information electronically after I fill in the blanks and pull it up to look at when appointment rolls around…..now that would save some paper) Prescriptions are sent electronically to the pharmacy…..then the pharmacy prints out reams of paper telling me about the medications that have been prescribed.
Habits that have taken on a life of their own over the years cannot be broken over-night. I know some practices who routinely print out lists of things on a daily basis in case the computer goes down. Have I made my point yet?
When a salesman tells you that one of the benefits to using the product they are pitching is a substantial savings on paper…….look twice. Look at the operational realities and try to forecast the real usage of paper.