Scott A. Edmonds, OD, FAAO, focuses his blog on the role of the optometrist in health care reform – moving from primary eye care to primary health care. He is the chief medical officer of MARCH Vision Care, the co-director of the Low Vision/Contact Lens Service at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board. 

Disclosure: Edmonds is a consultant for March Vision.

BLOG: Take a technology break

Pennsylvania is a beautiful place in the fall. The Pocono Mountains offer a wealth of warm colors that spread out over the rolling hills and valleys of the commonwealth. The population thins dramatically heading north of Philadelphia and, once you pass the factories of Allentown, it is downright remote.

This past weekend, in the midst of what my Dad would call, “Indian summer,” my optometrist wife and I decided to fire up the little teardrop camper and head for the hills. We turned off the cell phones, switched off the 24/7 news stations and left the laptops at home. On the quiet drive north with the vivid landscape unfolding and becoming richer with each mile, we discussed how much technology has changed our lives. Of course, for our lives, with our two sons, a sister, her husband and their son all signing “OD” after their names, this means optometry.

Electronic medical records (EMR) have changed our lives so quickly and profoundly that this is hardly the profession that my dad discovered in the early 1960s. The very fabric of the patient experience has become an impersonal and technology-driven event. You either sit with your back to the patient and study a screen while wishing you had learned to type or you bring in a student or a scribe to disrupt the personal and trusted interaction with your long-term friend. Of course, if this a young patient, they will not even notice, as they are busy texting, often needing to consult their phone to answer your, “Which is better, one or two?” question.

Along with the use of the EMR has come a host of new responsibilities and requirements that will demand time and money and drain your office resources. First came the pressure of “meaningful use.” Take the course to learn how to do it and enter the patient data and reports so that the machine can properly document this and give you a “report card.” Then you need to “attest” to the government that you got good grades on your report card. Then sit back and wait for stage 2, all the while looking ahead to stage 3, which will be more onerous and less attainable.

If you are not having enough fun in your chosen profession as yet, you can look forward to the next chapter of the technology gift that keeps on giving. Because you are now keeping your patients’ Protected Health Information on a computer and exposing it to the Internet, you will need to become acquainted with a new type of risk. If you have had your identity stolen because you logged onto one of our national optometry organizations and they foolishly lost control of your personal data, you can understand this risk.