Electronic Medical Records (EMR) –A Balanced View

screenshot_5148_432x324One of the cornerstones of The New Government Health Plan is the use of the electronic medical record (EMR), sometimes called Electronic Health Records (EHR).  Proponents offer these as some of the advantages of those systems:

  • Universal coding of medical diagnoses and procedures so that insurers can better understand the public’s health and properly allocate resources
  • Avoidance of problems interpreting various handwriting styles
  • Ability to incorporate automated reminders and alerts (i.e. patient due for colonoscopy or bone density test, or vaccination) as part of the system.

Most hospitals and large practice administrators support the EMR concept. In addition to having the staff and resources to make the system  function, the system is effective in capturing more charges and assists in better collections.  And the federal government subsidizes the initial purchase an implementation of the system.

Practitioners are a little less enthusiastic.

Enormous amounts of time are required to fill out electronic templates, complete countless electronic forms and respond to automated questions not impacting patient care, while often negotiating frustrating electronic roadblocks. The time required for the process occupies the staff and diverts the practitioner’s focus from the patient to a computer process. As a result, practitioners are spending less time interacting with their patients and more time looking at the computer screen. Overall, patient’s best interests seem to have largely been lost in this conversation.

Our practitioners – James A. Simon, MD; Lucy D. Treene, MSHS, PA-C; Carol J. Mack, MSHS, PA-C, MPH – are not Luddites (people just down on technology). Quite the contrary!  We use many facets of the EMR systems, such as e-prescribing, e-scheduling, electronic billing to Medicare, all of which improve patient care, reduce medical errors, or, in the case of Medicare billing, are required by the government. But we are selective because we are, particularly in our field, first and foremost concerned with the privacy of our patients.

Consider the recent cyber attacks at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) and the successful electronic security breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) affecting 22.1 million people (“Hackers stole vast amount of sensitive data” according to The Washington Post), which resulted in the resignation of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. The Carefirst® BlueCross BlueShield family of companies was also recently and successfully hacked for personal information (including that of James A. Simon, MD, PC employees).

Being one of the foremost specialty medical practices in women’s sexual health in the world, the risk of our patients’ private records becoming public is simply not worth taking.  Our patients’ sexual problems, predilections and peccadillos are private and, unlike your FICO “credit” score which can be restored if your credit card is lost or stolen, once the details of your private sexual life are “out there,” that information can live forever on Google, Facebook or Twitter. And in case you should think, even for a minute, “who cares about MY sexual life,” don’t forget our offices are convenient to many in the public eye, five blocks from The White House, 2 ½ miles from The Capitol, and 3 miles from The Supreme Court.  Patients, many of them quite prominent, come to see us from all over the world as well.  No matter who you are, your health information is private at James A. Simon, MD, PC, and no one’s business but yours!

In our world of internet immediacy and electronic everything we agree with author Lisa Gardner’s comment, “There are things that once done can’t be undone, things that once said can’t be unsaid.”


Interested in women’s sexual health? Contact us for an appointment.


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