“Thank you, EMR!” Said no doctor. Ever.

At least up until now.

For years, we have had to put up with these machines in our exam rooms, distracting data entry devices that offer insignificant contributions to the work we do. That’s starting to change.

Recently, I led a workshop at the annual Kaiser Permanente internal medicine conference in Southern California. I gave one of my more popular sessions on the art of diagnosis and therapy (inspired and borrowed from Dr. Irwin M. Braverman’s marvelous lectures on learning dermatology through art).

This year I was able to reduce the discussion of therapeutics to just one slide. In fact, it was reduced to two words: To pick a topical steroid, simply type SRX DERM in order entry in our electronic medical record. This launches a “smart Rx” menu of topical steroids, neatly categorized as very high, high, medium, and low potency that makes choosing as easy as picking an entree off a menu. It also provides recommended dispense sizes based on the area you are treating. Face? 15 gm. Legs? 60 gm and so on.

What’s more, the listed steroids change automatically based on the current formulary. This ensures the lowest cost to the patient and minimizes rework of having to go back and pick another when the patient balks at unjustifiably high prices. The clinician has only to click and sign to place the order. Now a primary care physician – or even a dermatologist! – needs only to estimate the potency of the therapy, pick a vehicle (cream, ointment, gel, solution), and the EMR guides him or her to prescribe the right medication. It is easy to use, active at the point of care, and helpful to both clinician and patient.

This SRX program was developed by our local physicians in conjunction with pharmacists and the informatics team. It has enormous potential, providing more point of care clinical decision support based on best practice, formulary, and even personalized information automatically gleaned from that patient’s chart. As of now, we can customize our order entry such that if I want to order labs to look for connective tissue disease, I have to type only .CTD, and my personal picks for a lupus workup come up. It saves me time. Yes, I did just say that in reference to my EMR. And it helps ensure high-quality care. Whenever new diagnostics or new treatments become best practice, I can put them on my preference list, thereby making the best thing to do the easy thing to do.

The internal medicine physicians were appreciative for my lecture and loved learning through art. However, the big hit was the SRX DERM. “This will make it so much easier,” said one hospitalist, “thanks for doing this!”

I had nothing to do with it though. Thank you, EMR.

Dr. Benabio is a partner physician in the department of dermatology of the Southern California Permanente Group in San Diego. He is @Dermdoc on Twitter. Write to him at dermnews@frontlinemedcom.com .