By Katie Demeria
FRONT ROYAL -- With the recent push toward electronic medical records, a local doctor has conducted a study to find out how the patients themselves feel about the updated technology. He found that it all goes back to the relationship.
Dr. Bill Kerns of Front Royal Family Practice led a research team of physicians, looking into how patients want to engage with their electronic records.
Kerns found that the technology can be useful -- so long as it enhances the relationship between physician and patient.
The study stated that successful uses of electronic health records depend on "such technology's relevance, and on its promotion via integration with primary care practices' processes and the patient-clinician relationship."
"Relationships are crucial," Kerns said.
Technology has done a great deal to inform patients about their health, allowing them to take the initiative to learn more about certain medical areas. Kerns said this is useful, and should work as a way for patients to actively engage with their health care provider.
"There are true but anecdotal things on the Internet," Kerns said. "Some sources could say nobody should take this medicine, others will say it could save thousands of lives."
"That's an example of needing that relationship with your physician," he continued.
Linking the patient with physician is just as, if not more, important than the technological advancement itself, he said.
All health care providers should keep in mind the need to enhance the relationship with the patient, rather than just increasing technology, when implementing electronic medical records, according to Kerns.
Valley Health will implement its new EPIC system this May. Kerns said the system is impressive, and will allow for better communication between departments in hospitals, but physicians will still need to work to use it to benefit the patients.
"It comes down to engaging that patient with a relationship with the medical team," he said. "If all those people are on the same page, and learning from the patient what they want, then it's effective and easier."
Kerns' patient Bill Wheat, who works at Signal Knob Elementary School in Strasburg, was a pilot in the Air Force. He said his experiences with doctors while serving was "less than optimal." He had a new doctor every year and a thick stack of medical records that moved around with him.
Since then, he has noticed that the electronic records system facilitates collaboration between himself and Kerns.
"I see it as an enhancement of resources," Wheat said. "I can get on there before an appointment and remember, what did I need to talk to him about again?"
Front Royal Family Practice uses a third party medical records website called www.mypreventivecare.com. Patients can log on and see their lab results, get an explanation of a medical term, or find out what screenings they need to schedule.
Wheat pointed out the usefulness in learning about complicated medical terms when a patient may not fully understand the term a physician used when referring to a condition.
"You can engage with the vocabulary in a way you weren't able to before," he said.
Engagement, according to Kerns, is the purpose behind most successful electronic medical record services, as the study revealed.
"Individuals are becoming more involved," he said. "Trying to engage the patient is what we need to focus on."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org