Great article on how to select a physician. Most of the time it is pretty easy to detect once you walk in to a lobby of a practice, those still using paper seem to possess an atmosphere of chaos to some degree, and the entire staff appears rushed and somewhat stressed, whereby those offices using electronic records have much of this information at their fingertips on the computers, thus less physical movement in pulling charts, looking for faxes, etc. and this in itself allows the office to focus better on patient care and not chasing information. You still need the patient-doctor relationship as well, but if you can find both at one office, chances are you will end up being a winner the search for a good doctor. BD
Odd as it may seem, simply calling prospective doctors and asking whether their office is computerized may turn out to be the best advice for finding a physician committed to patient care over the long term.
"The average consumer takes it as a given that doctors have these systems in place," says Peter Lee, chief executive of the Pacific Business Group on Health, an employer coalition based in San Francisco. "They don't know how much medical care today is not 20th century, let alone 21st century, in terms of how much doctors rely on paper instead of computers."
Nationally, only about 20% of physician offices are computerized; the rest still rely on notoriously inefficient paper charts. But computers are an easy benchmark for quality. They can help a doctor not just keep track of files, but also send out prescriptions accurately and quickly, get lab results inserted into the record automatically and be reminded what the scientific evidence suggests is the next best step with a patient.
At the same time, for doctors to get the most value out of computers, experts say they need to use them as more than word processors; physicians should use features such as electronic reminders to prescribe a test or a medication, and change the way they practice as a result. "I believe it really does translate to better care," says Robert Eidus, a New Jersey physician with a background in business and medical quality improvement. "But it's not just that I have an electronic medical record, it's how do you use it and how does it impact caring for patients."
"I've always loved them, they treat you like family," says patient Josh Dryman, a 33-year-old who lives in Laguna Niguel. "But I had to wait an hour in the lobby and wait in the exam room another half-hour. Now when you go in, they get you in right away and the staff seems a heck of a lot friendlier."