How One Doctor Adapted To His Hospital’s Epic EMR Install

Here’s some words on coping with new hospital EMR installs — and the Epic Systems EMR in particular — from the pen of the thoughtful Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, who blogs at 33Charts.com.

Dr. Vartabedian, a pediatric gastroenterologist, works at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine. Apparently, Texas Children’s has just transitioned inpatient medical records to Epic, and Dr. Vartabedian is hard at work figuring out how to adjust his workflow.

How is it going for him? Dr. Vartabedian compares moving from paper to digital charting to his learning experiences as a medical student:

When I was a medical student…I was preoccupied with the mechanics of the exam and history.  Head to toe skin exam, cranial nerves, DTRs.  It was about pocket eye charts and tuning forks.  I was focused on my H&P at the expense of my connection.  It was only after I became familiar with the whole process did I relax and begin to focus eye-to-eye on the issues of the patient. 

Today, he’s going through a similar adjustment process, Dr. Vartabedian says. At first, he notes, he was obsessed with clicks and pulldowns, data and documentation, but he believes he’ll come out of his tech trance over time. “I suspect that as I customize the flow of how I work in Epic I’ll reemerge to connect eye-to-eye with residents, nurses and patients,” Dr. Vartabedian writes.

In an interesting side note, a fellow physician who’s been using Kaiser’s Epic system dropped by to comment that he’s had the same experience.  ”Dermdoc” said that he typically uses the EMR just before he enters the patient room. He only ends up using it during the patient visit if he has something to research, and he shares what he finds directly with the patient.

Dermdoc seems completely sold on his EMR — and seems convinced that his colleagues will inevitably get on board. “Like the Model T, there’s no going back,” he says.