Electronic medical records hold the promise of better, more effective, and more efficient patient care. However, despite this great promise, the learning curve to implementation and the manner in which the systems are utilized in the clinic may sometimes create barriers to truly meaningful patient experiences.

Many veteran physicians have voiced concern that the new focus on electronic records sacrifices “kneecap-to-kneecap” interactions that lead not only to correct diagnoses, but to moments of personal engagement between physician and patient. We have interviewed numerous patients and family members whose philanthropy was inspired not by medical outcomes, but by such moments. It is the tremendous impact of empathy, listening, and caring that inspires contributions that are both meaningful for the donor and significant for the organization.

One donor describes it this way:

When our first child died at birth … the most difficult time in our lives … these caregivers came alongside us; they walked with us and they cried with us. The things that they did might have seemed so little in their eyes, but they were so big in ours. Those memories from 15 years ago, they’re still so vivid in my mind.

A key question, then, for health professionals should be: Am I allowing my focus on the computer to get in the way of “little things” that are so big in the eyes of patients and family members?

Providing quality care to patients is arguably the most meaningful and rewarding part of a physician’s work and its importance cannot be overstated. By focusing first on technology, physicians may inadvertently interfere with the communication and relationship building so inherent to the practice of healing. This is a great disservice for not only the patient, but the physician as well.

We remain hopeful that the great potential of electronic medical records may be realized, and that the technology may be perfected to create more time for conversation, observation, and meaningful interactions. This engagement is deeply connected to philanthropy, and should not be sacrificed at any cost.


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