An orthopedist who has until recently volunteered at the Veterans Hospital told me today why he’ll never go back.  Having switched to an electronic medical record display of Xrays in the operating rooms, the software allowed for only a 5 minute glimpse, after which it automatically disappeared.  This image’s disappearance was mandated by a privacy concern, according to the administration.  When a view of the image was again required during the course of the surgery, the nurse had to leave what she was doing, “wake up” the computer, log back on, log in to the radiology section, then search all over again for the patient, then their films.  The surgery came to a halt during this several minute process. 

Once again the race was on!  5 minutes!  Then they got to do it all over again.  The surgeon was told that this was the way it was and there was no way around it.  He decided at that point that he would see patients in the VA clinic, just never set foot in their operating rooms again.  

Having seen a clinic patient that needed an MRI, he asked for the requisition form that he was accustomed to signing.  ”There aren’t any more forms.”  ”You need to call the Xray tech and schedule it for the patient on the phone.” “That’s the way we do it now.” 

That was it.  He is now gone.  He will never go back.  A combination of lack of access to necessary Xrays due to the electronic medical records system and their attempt to reduce him to a clerk’s role did it.  The VA hospital has lost a talented, dedicated and gifted surgeon due to a socialized medical system the likes of which many in this country are about to experience.  I doubt much if the folks at the VA care that this surgeon is gone.  Or care very much about anything for that matter.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.