Practicing medicine today means interacting not just with patients, but also with computers. As of 2013, nearly 80% of office-based physicians were using electronic health records. But medical schools have been slow to keep up with the trend. There's no national standard yet for how med students should be trained on EHRs. Some are using computer systems from day one of their education. While others may be forced to sink or swim once they start to practice. This is a report for iHealthBeat, a daily news service of the California HealthCare Foundation.
I'm Ali Budner Priyanka Chilakamarri is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Vermont. From very early on, she and her fellow students were expected to engage with their lessons through computer screens. (Chilakamarri): "When I first started medical school ... they gave all the students laptops." They also immediately started using computers in their interactions with patients. That meant learning how to use an EHR system. But EHRs are complex and notoriously hard to teach. (Jemison): "Because inevitably the computers are attached to walls, your back is to a patient, there's a lot of physical reconfiguring you have to do in order to take notes." Jill Jemison is the director of technology services at UVM, Chilakamarri's school. (Jemison): "We're teaching them how to do a good note, how to put all the information in it, how to collect the right thing." The third year of med school is when students would typically be exposed to EHRs, when they start clinical rotations. But in her very first year at UVM, Chilakamarri was already practicing on what's called a "dummy EHR," a system that's been stripped of identifying personal information to protect patient privacy.