No one was more surprised than the physician himself. The drawing was unmistakable. It showed the artist—a 7-year-old girl—on the examining table. Her older sister was seated nearby in a chair, as was her mother, cradling her baby sister. The doctor sat staring at the computer, his back to the patient—and everyone else. All were smiling. The picture was carefully drawn with beautiful colors and details, and you couldn’t miss the message. When he saw the drawing, the physician wrote a caption for it: “The economic stimulus bill has directed $20 billion to health care information technology, largely funding electronic medical record incentives. I wonder how much this technology will really cost?”
So it came as a stunning piece of feedback—not surprisingly out of the crayon of a babe—that his patients might be seeing him in a new way since the rollout of the electronic medical record. From my perspective of 20 years practicing and teaching primary care pediatrics and internal medicine and more than two years into juggling the needs of patients with those of the computer, this child’s drawing powerfully expressed the deep frustration and concern of many physicians, including me.
No one is more for information technology in health care than I. But it’s important to remember that everything has tradeoffs, and that we need to work to minimize the potential downsides of electronic medical records in the practice of medicine.