Doctors increasingly use email and electronic medical records to improve health care. In an essay in the Los Angeles Times
, Rahul Parikh writes about his own experience at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Northern California where they implemented an electronic medical record system in 2006: "...notes, orders and prescriptions are clear and contiguous. There's no waiting for paperwork. And if a patient of mine shows up in another office across town (remember, Kaiser is an integrated system -- we all share the same computer network), a doctor whom I have never met can see what I've written, my patient's list of problems and what I've done for the patient in the past before he or she even sets foot in the room to talk to the patient. Such record systems can alert us to possible medication errors or dangerous drug interactions. They can continuously be updated to identify best practices. And they talk to patients as well, allowing them to access past-visit information and immunization records and to make appointments and send e-mails to their doctor."
The piece explores criticism of electronic medical records including that data is rarely rechecked for accuracy, concern about the security of computerized health information, and what happens to health care should a system crash. Parikh ends the piece: "Ultimately, getting away from a pen and paper is better for my patients. So though electronic medical records are far from perfect, you'd have to tear my cold, dead hand from the mouse to make me go back to relying solely on pen and paper" (Parikh, 7/20).