Unintended consequences of the electronic medical record on physicians in training and their mentors


For physicians in training and their mentors, the process of learning and teaching clinical medicine has become challenging in the electronic medical record (EMR) era. Trainees and their mentors exist in a milieu of incessant box checking and laborious documentation that has no clinical educational value, limits the time for teaching and curtails clinical cognitive skill development. These unintended consequences of the EMR are juxtaposed against the EMR's intended benefits of improved patient care and safety with reduced medical errors, improved clinical support systems, reduced potential for negligence with clinical data and metadata data supporting compliance with the standard of care. Although the mindset was technology would be the solution to many healthcare issues, there was not an appreciation of the cumulative impact of the non-educational workload on physician time and education. The EMR was intended to improve the efficiency of medical care and time management. It appears that the unintended consequences of the EMR with numerous checkboxes, automatic filling of computer screens, pre-worded templates, and automatic history and physical examination functions with detailed administrative oversight and compliance monitoring were not appreciated, and many believe that burden has overwhelmed the intended benefits of the EMR. This juxtaposition of the intended and unintended consequences of the EMR has left trainees and mentors struggling to optimise medical education and development of clinical skills while providing high-quality patient medical care. Physician educators must identify how to use the benefits of the EMR and overcome the unintended consequences. A major unintended consequence of the EMR is time dedicated to automate functions that detract from the time spent with mentors and patients. This time loss has the potential to restrict the physician from meeting the essential canons of medical informed consent and interfere with a physician meeting her fiduciary duties to the patient. To raise awareness and stimulate a search for solutions that benefit medical education and patient care, we will explore the intended and unintended consequences of the EMR and potential solutions using the intelligent systems of the EMR.

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