IHI 2016: EMRs 'a 4,000-click-a-day problem,' says Verghese

A doctor at a desk holding up his hand to say stop
Photo credit: Medioimages/Photodisc

ORLANDO, Fla.–Technology has advanced medicine in many ways, but it has also led physicians to focus more on data than patients, said best-selling author Abraham Verghese, M.D.

Abraham Verghese
Abraham Verghese

Verghese, the keynote speaker Tuesday at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 28th annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Healthcare in Orlando, Florida, said physicians’ attention has been diverted and patients suffer as a result.

Patients don’t like it when doctors break eye contact with them, said Verghese, senior associate chair, Stanford University School of Medicine. They want to feel like their doctors are paying attention to them.

But instead physicians are focused on the prompts within the electronic medical record. He said in a course of a shift it can take 16 clicks to order baby aspirin and 140 clicks to admit a patient for chest pain. It is a “4,000 click-a-day problem,” he said. And this lack of interaction with patients is causing resentment. "For every hour with patients, doctors are spending two hours on the computer … This has to change," said Verghese. "The EMR of today is a mistake of epic proportions.”

The distractions have led to oversights during the physical exam, although the chart wouldn’t reveal that because every check box is checked off. “I like fiction,” Verghese said. “I write fiction but it has no place in the electronic medical record.”