The introduction of electronic health records (EHRs) promised to cut down on the amount of paperwork created by healthcare providers. It has certainly done that. For example, gone are the days of handwritten prescriptions. Most doctors now generate electronic versions that go directly from office to pharmacy. Patients do not get so much as a piece of paper.
Some of us miss handwritten prescriptions. We miss the personal touch that is a doctor’s signature. It used to be fun to spend the time driving between office and pharmacy trying to decipher what the doctor had written. In the backs of our minds, we always knew that getting a prescription from a doctor with especially terrible handwriting was the medical version of Russian roulette.
Those were exciting times, indeed. Getting a prescription back then was an adventure. Prescriptions were also a lot less common in those days. For some reason, doctors were more reticent about dispensing medications than they are today. They even had the audacity to recommend non-pharmaceutical treatments – like taking better care of yourself.
Standardizing Health Records
We all understand the main impetus behind the legislation that mandated EHRs. Washington lawmakers implemented the legislation in order to standardize health records. The thinking at the time was that standards would help bring down the cost of healthcare delivery by streamlining record-keeping. They were wrong on that count. Prices have continued to rise year on year despite the EHR mandate.
However, there was another reason for implementing EHRs: to give medical providers across the country centralized access to health records. Doing so is what allows you to see any doctor, in any specialty, without having to carry paper records around. All your records are easily accessible through a central database.
You may or may not consider this a good thing. EHR proponents love the centralized system for its efficiency and accessibility. They also claim it leads to better healthcare delivery. EHR critics do not trust the system. They consider it an invasion of privacy and yet another step toward complete government control.
A More Personal Time
Getting back to handwritten prescriptions, it seems like medicine back then was more personal. In fact, it was a more personal time across the board. Doctors and business owners alike took a real interest in their customers. They got to know the people they served. They got to know their families, their neighbourhoods, and so on.
Today, it seems like everything is about efficiency. That wouldn’t be a bad thing except for the fact that the primary motive behind efficiency is money. We make things more efficient so that they become more profitable.
There is no getting around the fact that medicine is a business. Altruism may be at its core, but it is a business, nonetheless. Moreover, the primary goal of business is profit. It is understandable that the powers that be want their businesses to make as much money as possible.
The good side of that is competition. And when it comes to prescription medications, competition abounds. You can take your prescription to an independently owned pharmacy or corporate chain. You can take it to a grocery store, a big box department store, or an online pharmacy. You can even have your prescription filled north of the border by CanadaPharmacy.com.
There is a lot to appreciate about the healthcare system we enjoy in 2021. But there is also something to be said about days gone by. Some of us miss a more personal time when prescriptions were written by hand and doctors knew us personally. Unfortunately, we can never go back.