Electronic tools are on the rise in practice

October 10, 2004

Don't use a computer, personal digital assistant (PDA), or other electronic tools at the office and at home? It's time to catch up with your colleague - for good reason!

Don't use a computer, personal digital assistant (PDA), or other electronic tools at the office and at home? It's time to catch up with your colleagues - for good reason

According to a 2002 survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 97% of pediatricians use computers. And they aren't just checking email or the latest sports news. Clinical use of computers is on the rise. Among AAP respondents, 41% admitted to using computers to manage a diagnosis or problem list, 37% to track immunizations, and 41% to submit and receive laboratory results.

When it comes to PDAs, the numbers are less impressive, noted David Paperny, MD, FAAP, pediatric implementer for Kaiser HealthConnect, a national electronic medical record initiative undertaken by HMO giant Kaiser Permanente. He told the AAP 2004 National Conference and Exhibition yesterday that just 38% of pediatricians use a PDA. The good news is how they are using PDAs: Fully 77% use a PDA for scheduling; 76%, to check drug references during prescribing; and 75%, for calculations. Computer and PDA use are one reason Dr. Paperny is upbeat about the adoption of electronic medical records, or EMRs, by pediatricians.

The other reason he is optimistic about the rise of EMRs is a financial one. EMRs are not cheap, he noted, but the return on investment can be impressive.

The move from paper medical records to EMRs can, experience shows, boost revenue by $40,000 per physician per year because of more accurate coding. Studies suggest that practices that rely on paper medical records miss 14% of procedures and 2% of office visits. EMRs, however, don't miss anything.Electronic records are also more efficient than paper records. Overall, Dr. Paperny said, EMRs reduce chart pulls by 90% and staff time by 50%.

EMRs also offer less tangible benefits. Because there are no hand-written entries, there are none of the problems associated with illegible handwriting on charts or prescriptions. Electronic access gives clinicians access to the most current patient records. EMRs allow for automatic drug interaction and allergy screening at the point of prescribing. EMRs also allow physicians to monitor compliance.

Just as importantly, Dr. Paperny noted, parents love the technology. Electronic medical records, he emphasized, give them more confidence in the pediatrician's knowledge, judgment, and treatment recommendations.