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Using an anonymous online survey, medical students report that electronic medical record (EMR) technology both enhances their education and acts as a drain on their time.

An opinion survey published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology gave respondents a chance to anonymously provide their opinion about the usefulness of the EMR in their work and education.  Respondents to this survey were nephrology fellows—physicians who have finished their education and residencies and are aiming at becoming specialists in kidney function.  All respondents were part of programs in the US.

As we have discussed, the EMR—for better and for worse—is here to stay.  Institutions, medical groups, and individual physicians are still coming to terms with how the EMR impacts their practice and their lives.  While physicians who worked primarily from paper charts are aging out of the medical industry, new providers are more adept at navigating electronic landscapes.  Despite that, EMR software remains cumbersome, time-consuming, repetitive, and sometimes responsible for creating an environment ripe for medical error.

The survey was provided to 148 nephrology programs in the US.  Respondents included 72 nephrology fellows, 97 faculty members, and 51 program directors.  Bottom line findings of the survey include:

  • More than 40 percent of respondents noted that the EMR that they use is slow and prone to disruption. These individuals were not as likely to agree that the EMR was useful to their education in a positive way.
  • Because of the time necessary to enter data in the EMR, just about 50 percent of nephrology fellows note that they had less time to do procedures, attend educational or other conferences and interact with patients.
  • Approximately 65 percent of the nephrology fellows reported they exceeded their work-hour restrictions on a somewhat regular basis in order to enter required data in the EMR.
  • On the flip side, about 50 percent of the nephrology fellows felt the EMR had a positive impact on their education and gave them easy access to lab and other study results. These respondents also mentioned that the cumbersome nature of EMRs limits their patient interaction prolongs their day in an unproductive way, and reduces engagement in other worthwhile educational endeavors.

Thumbs up and thumbs down.   Limiting patient interaction time and fatiguing physicians reduces engagement and creates a scenario where medical mistakes are more likely to occur.

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