If there’s one thing that every health care provider knows, there’s something magical about the words “Road Trip” that practically invites catastrophe. We see the results of unplanned, spontaneous journeys far too often in ERs and for months and months of follow up care.
So if the worst thing that happens during a trip from North Dakota to Louisiana is that the travelers drop off the radar for a while – well, that’s not too bad, is it?
Unless, of course, the travelers were six nuclear missiles. Then the fact that the road trip went apparently off road for a day and a half is a very big deal indeed. All of the missiles were found safe and sound, thankfully.
I mentioned this incident to a friend, who snorted and said, “Six missles? I have six thousand patient charts to keep track of and a possessed lap top!”
Apparently, handling nuclear arms has got nothing on the complexities of electronic charting. We’ve got a records road trip going on each and every day. Experience has taught us that what can go wrong will go wrong, and of course we fear catastrophe.
Change is scary. The transition to electronic medical records (EMR) is particularly scary, because we’re changing critical documents. These are the charts we use to track patient progress. These charts contain information used to make literal life and death decisions. These are the charts we use to document when the doctor says, “Don’t call me unless the patient’s head starts spinning around like a merry-go-round while he recites the Declaration of Independence in fourteenth century French while wearing a gown made entirely out of Fruit Roll Ups and Chux!”
We can’t afford to lose this information. Charts may not be nuclear missiles, but lose one and the impact will be nearly as explosive.
The question becomes how do we alleviate the fear that comes with change?
Humor helps. Humor allows us to compare entirely unlike things – say nuclear warheads and patient charts – for purposes of illustration, but also to regain some sort of perspective. A patient chart won’t accidentally ‘go off’ and flatten an entire city. (The charts of some frequent fliers could, in paper form, flatten an entire nurse, but that’s another story!) Humor allows us to reframe the issue and look at it from a new angle.
For example, what if electronic medical records weren’t only a convenient way to record and update patient information, but a dependable source of humor? Already, we’ve seen some fabulous ‘Alert Messages’ being shared:
Warning: Pt has dx of schizophrenia with persistent delusions that he is a starfish because he has five appendages. Will only move when placed face-forward in contact with wall or floor.
Warning: Pt has an addiction to genealogies and will babble incessantly about the origins of your family name during the exam.
Warning: Pt has carved the nail of his right big toe into a train whistle which he will insist on demonstrating all of the crossing codes.
And my personal favorite,
Warning: Pt is a prospector. Will only pay in gold dust.
Not all road trips end badly. Some offer unexpected delights, spontaneous bits of joy that will transform our lives and give us happiness when we need it the most. It’s amusing. It can be amazing.
And now, it’s wireless.
How cool is that?
Yours in Laughter!