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January 2019

Editor's Note: Don't Be a Robot
By Lee DeOrio
For The Record
Vol. 31 No. 1 P. 3

One of the more interesting and enjoyable films released this year was Sorry to Bother You, a social commentary comedy about a young black man who finds success using his "white voice" at a telemarketing company. One of the edicts at RegalView is "stick to the script," a demand, it can be argued, that also pertains to physicians using EHRs. It's fair to say that most patients—and probably most doctors—are not thrilled with the current state of office visits.

When I or a family member has fallen ill recently, the trip to the doctor's office deviates little from the routine. The same boxes get checked off and the conversation follows along the same path. Unfortunately, the real story—the issues going on elsewhere in the family that may be negatively affecting someone's health—seldom emerges.

You can point the finger at physicians in such instances, but in many cases, they're simply following the track that's been laid down in front of them. After all, ignoring the EHR's templates comes at significant risk, namely in the form of lower reimbursement and quality metrics.

As a result, it's up to patients to divulge what's happening in their lives that may be affecting their health. Answering questions from a template won't necessarily shed light on the situation; in fact, there's a good chance it won't help at all. Sharp physicians attempt to engage patients through a more personalized approach. Here, time management and documentation requirements take a back seat, the patient is encouraged to open up, and a successful outcome is more likely.

Stress is a powerful, palatable part of everyday existence, a force with huge health consequences. As far as I know, there's no box in an EHR that can be clicked to properly represent its existence in someone's life. It takes an open dialogue between a physician and a patient to assess the source of conditions such as chronic headaches, muscle pain, and loss of appetite. In other words, it's time to ditch the script and create a unique patient experience.