I have a new friend to carry around with me at work -- my laptop computer.
For about the past month, I have been on the electronic medical record. Rather than dictate my notes to a bank of transcriptionists in India, I type them. Actually, it's more of a point-and-click system, but for many aspects of the note, I prefer to type.
On the first day using the electronic medical record, I wanted to crawl under my desk and hide. My orientation had been at least four months earlier, and the technical support person on site was clueless -- I'd ask him a question, he'd stare blankly at the computer and tell me that he's "not familiar with this template"
The first few weeks of EMR (electronic medical record) were beyond painful. At first, it took me far longer to complete a patient visit. But, now I think it's faster than the previous paper charting. I don't have to write prescriptions because if the patient's pharmacy is in my computer, I can fax a prescription right from the exam room. As a patient talks, while I used to write down notes, I can type my notes, which don't need to be subsequently dictated because they are being typed directly into the EMR system. And, rather than have a pile of charts waiting for me to dictate them at the end of clinic, it's easy enough to finish off a patient note at the end of the encounter with a patient.
While I enjoy the technology, I don't want to take anything away from the personal interaction with my patients. I try to set up my computer so that it is not directly in the line of eye contact between me and my patient, and so I angle myself toward my patient, and slightly away from my computer. I have had to learn how to balance the entry of data with making eye contact with my patients, and try to minimize the number of moments of awkward silence while I try to find the right place to point and click.
So, if you have an appointment with me, and you see me in the room with the laptop computer, please know that even though I may be typing, and pointing and clicking, I am listening. Really.