Mailer and Me: Do You Have Any Paper?

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , May 20, 2010

"But with EPIC, we file most of those silently into our electronic health records for future access if necessary," he says.

There are some stumbles along the way. As his physician group was moving toward an electronic system, there was a "surprising realization," Garber says. Doctors were still dictating their notes into a voice recorder, and they had to send out transcriptions overseas. So even though the practice was on an EPIC system, it was still spending an extra $10,000 per physician, not to mention the lag time in retrieving the documents. Not good, Garber says.

In 2008, Fallon Clinic launched a Dragon Medical speech recognition program, which provided 10 diverse physicians with medical to dictation directly into the EPIC system, versus typing, or traditional transcription support.

Among other things, it found a 99% reduction rate in the average number of minutes after a patient left for the final note to be placed in the EHR system. For the physicians, that meant the wait time went from an average of 3.8 days to 46 minutes. The net savings: $7,114 per physician each year, according to Garber.

Besides the inevitable cost savings, Garber says that the electronic records ultimately serve the top priority, the needs of the patients. Garber says he "diagnosed several (patients) with prostate (issues) that would not have been caught as early," thanks to the electronic health records. Because the records track a patient's history, he noted he received information about a patient's "motor vehicle accident that the person didn't tell me," he says.

So the electronic record is the way to go. Even Mailer did it eventually, in his own way. When he wrote his first book, The Naked and the Dead in 1955, he typed it. Later he hired a secretary who eventually maintained what would become "all of the electronic records," according to the Harry Ransom Center, at the University of Texas at Austin, where Mailer's papers are maintained. Mailer died at age 84 in 2007.

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Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

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