A new study says internal medicine house staff generally feel that the quality of progress notes is unchanged or better since the implementation of an electronic medical record, but the attendings feel that progress note quality is unchanged or worse.
Over 400 interns, residents, and attending internists at four university hospitals were surveyed. The paper appears online in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.
Specifically, 50% of residents felt that the quality of notes was unchanged and 39% thought the quality was better or much better. Conversely, 39% of the attendings felt the note quality was unchanged, and another 39% felt that it was worse or much worse.
From the paper: Half of interns and residents rated their own progress notes as “very good” or “excellent.” A total of 44% percent of interns and 24% of residents rated their peers’ notes as “very good” or “excellent,” whereas only 15% of attending physicians rated housestaff notes as “very good” or “excellent.”
When the 9-item Physician Documentation Quality Instrument was used to evaluate notes, attending perceptions of housestaff notes were significantly lower than housestaff perceptions of their own notes, p < 0.001. One of the PDQI items asked for a rating of how succinct resident notes were. That feature was rated lowest by attendings and residents alike. I can think of a lot of words to describe electronic progress notes, but "succinct" isn't one of them.
In all, 16% of interns, 22% of residents, and 55% of attendings reported that copy forward [copy and paste] had a “somewhat negative” or “very negative” impact on critical thinking, p < 0.001. Auto population of fields in notes was judged similarly.
The authors felt that these differences could be explained because Attendings may expect notes to reflect synthesis and analysis, whereas trainees may be satisfied with the data gathering that an EHR facilitates. I agree.
Can all this be remedied?
Dr. Daniel Sexton, a Duke University internist, authored a three page guide [link is safe] on how to write effective progress notes. Here are just a few excerpts:
DO NOT TRANSCRIBE LAB DATA INTO THE PROGRESS NOTES UNLESS YOU INTEND TO COMMENT UPON IT. [All caps by Dr. Sexton]
It is often good and useful to explain your thinking in the chart.
Do not mindlessly repeat yourself in daily notes. [That goes for "copy and paste" too (my extension of this recommendation)]
LENGTH OF NOTES DOES NOT RELATE TO RELEVANCE OF NOTES. [All caps by Dr. Sexton]
I have written about the pitfalls of electronic medical records several times. In my blog's search field to your upper right, insert "electronic medical record" or "EMR" and click "Search This Blog" to see my other posts.
It's early in the academic year. Start writing better notes now. And please don't copy and paste.