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Extended Interview: Dr. William Davis

Dr. William Davis, a family practice physician at Winona Family Medicine, discusses the use of electronic health records.

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  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    When Cerner [Corp.] came knocking, looking for a community hospital and a community to test out its personal health records product, what was your response?

  • DR. WILLIAM DAVIS:

    I thought it was amazing. I thought this was a great idea. … Here was an opportunity for patients to have their own electronic record, and be able to interact with their physicians by sending messages about questions they might have or a request for, prescription refills or, request for visits.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    And when Cerner actually introduced that technology, initially at any rate, it turned out to be a little bit of a dud. Let's talk about why.

  • DR. DAVIS:

    I think the vision of personal health records was something that the patient would put their own information in so they would get on and they'd enter their problem list and enter their surgeries and enter their medications and take their blood pressure and put it in there. And, it turned out that very few people wanted to take the time to do that. A few people would, but most people were not anxious to spend that much time trying to do it. What they really wanted was access to the records they already had which was access to the doctor's office records.

    So Cerner stepped back and said, OK, we've got to redo this whole thing, so they completely rewrote the software and integrated it with the health record, the electronic health records so that patients would actually be able to look into their record and see the things that the doctor recorded. So they could see the list of allergies and immunizations and procedures they'd had and medications they take.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    And meanwhile, the providers in the community, the hospital, the physicians, the clinics, realized that they needed to be part of this action also, correct?

  • DR. DAVIS:

    We had to have training sessions for the physicians because in the early stage the doctor also had to log onto this separate site and look at the patient's record in order to be able to, to see what they had put in. And to see if they had a message. So if a patient wanted to message me, I would have to go and look at this site and see if there were any messages for me. Well you can imagine when this starts out there are very few people and divided among all the doctors, after two, three, four weeks of going on there, there's nothing for me, I'd forget about it. I'm not going there anymore.

    So as we were training the doctors, they said, you know, this isn't fair. The patients are getting an electronic health record but we don't have one. And so we began then the journey of trying to decide on an electronic health record and implement it here.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    What was the initial physician attitude on average about electronic health records?

  • DR. DAVIS:

    Most of them are very enthusiastic about it. I mean there are always people who are worried about, mostly it was about around the issues of security and privacy. But again there were, you know there were probably a third of the medical staff who had never used a computer. Didn't know how to turn one on, didn't know what a mouse was, so for them it was quite a challenge to say OK, you have to learn how to use the computer to be able to find the results that you want on your patients.

    But, you know, they didn't, they didn't quit, leave or anything, they just, it took them time to learn that and, and so there was, I'm sure there was a lot of anxiety and doctors are you know, they like to believe that they are really in charge of everything so to admit that there was something they didn't really know anything about, you know they got their kids to come over and show them how, how the computer works and so by the time we were ready to start training on the use of the system, most of them were, were up to speed.

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