Rethinking Electronic Medical Records

Natasha Cowan|30th January 2020

Imagine a world where medical records are never lost, doctors and hospitals are more efficient, and no matter where you are, your physician can access your notes at the click of a button. That’s the attractive promise of the electronic medical record (EMR).

Hospitals across the western world are buying into EMR systems. The prestigious Great Ormond Street Hospital in London has just embarked on a £50 million project to digitalise its paper records. Walk through the hospital corridors and you will spot banners with slogans such as ‘Future Proof’ and ‘We can do this,’ designed to assure doctors of the benefits of the new technology.

In New York City, Mount Sinai also began implementing an EMR system as early as 2005 in a bid to go paper-free and to ensure many of the hospitals systems are connected through one technology provider. Despite this, in 2019, the technology is yet to be fully applied.

The hospital says this is to minimise disruption; however, mounting evidence suggests the most popular EMR systems are not fit for purpose.

With one recent report revealing 95% of clinicians associate EMR usability with burnout, it’s clear the technology is not living up to the hype. A lack of user-friendly interfaces coupled with little capability for interoperability is frustrating physicians and impacting their relationships with patients.

One doctor is trying to change this. Dr Dave Pao is both a clinician and a design PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art, London. He has more than 20 years’ experience working as a doctor in sexual health and HIV and he has experienced the negative impact of EMRs first hand. Now, he is championing the design of EMR through visual provotyping, which aims to solve some of the clinician’s biggest challenges when using the technology in a clinical setting. 

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