It had been a while since my last visit to my primary care physician. I had actually missed my last two appointments for annual checkup. As soon as I entered the practice, I noticed some subtle changes. The reception area for one seemed much more organized, the place was quieter with the usual bustle amiss. The difference was so apparent that the staff almost seemed sluggish. I couldn’t recall ever witnessing them walking casually down the corridor. I hastily sped up to the reception hoping to find a familiar face to ease my nervousness.
She greeted me as usual and told me that I had missed my last two appointments looking at the computer screen while pointing and shaking her finger at me, to which I apologized and let out a nervous chuckle. ’That’s ok! We already scanned your chart in. There is just one more patient before you so please take a seat.’, she followed. I knew they had implemented an EMR. I was slightly excited about getting some insights, perhaps the overall experience and what not.
In the exam room I noticed the additional furniture, a small sleek desk with a monitor perched on top. My doctor walked in, greeted me and sat on the revolving stool. It seemed different. He sat close but I found it hard to make eye contact or answer his questions. We were communicating and exchanging opinions in batches. His back was turned towards me as he clicked and typed on his computer and affirmed that he had heard me with ’hmmm’’ I caught a glimpse of the EMR interface here and there but my intrigue was gone. I felt a disconnection with the doctor I had consulted for the past 6 years and there was this awkwardness as I could tell when he was trying to compensate by turning around a couple of times.
I immediately thought about the flaw with the room setting and as he about to ask me about my nagging back problem I interrupted, ’Shouldn’t you keep the table faced towards the patient? You might be able to document and look at me at the same time.’ There was a brief pause as he turned around and looked up at me and responded, ’That might be a bit awkward with a table in between, don’t you think?.’ ’No.’, I replied instantly and we spend the rest of the session interacting face to face, with him taking down notes on a pad. ’Are you going to document this on your EMR later?’, I asked as I was about to leave and he assured me that it won’t be a problem, simply because he had done most of his work anyway. We both shared a laugh as I walked out the door.
As I was walking towards the parking lot, I was convincing myself of the benefits that this could bring me. Electronic test results, prescription refills etc. through an online portal perhaps. I already know the qualitative benefits of utilizing the EMR. My doctor’s decision may have been right but I realized that it may never be the same for me.