Now one could say that I did not cut my teeth on computers in preschool, however, I make that statement having received a master's of science in electrical and computer engineering, having programmed in more than four languages and having an innate understanding of what must be done behind the scenes to create a system that will work for physicians. I am by no means a Luddite when it comes to deploying technology in the medical field.
Unfortunately, the number of physicians working on software development teams is small and, at times, nonexistent. The result is that the systems are not intuitive to use, being designed by programmers who think they know what a physician may want. In one instance, while training on the hospital CPOE system, I had to muster all of my graduate engineering training to understand the intricacies of the error-prone user interface being presented to me by the software. To use the system safely required remembering all of its bugs and nuances.
User interface issues contribute to user errors, which contribute to medication errors and harm patients. When the Apple computer was released, a book of user interface guidelines was published by Addison-Wesley to guide those software developers in creating a common user experience. Clearly, similar guidelines do not exist for EHR software. Yet these “not ready for prime time” systems are being shoved down the throats of practicing physicians.
So, when the conclusion that “Med students not ready to use EHRs” is made, as our medical students are from the generation that has “cut their teeth” on computers in preschool, maybe a more appropriate headline would be “EHRs are not ready for (technologically savvy) med students.”
Leland Berkwits, M.D.