From the Sociology Department and School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
CORRESPONDENCE TO: Ross Koppel, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, Sociology Department and School of Medicine, McNeill Bldg, Room 113, Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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I thank Drs Canham and Weaver for their insights regarding my editorial1 about the article by Drs Weis and Levy.2 Canham and Weaver’s examples illustrate how the cut/copy and paste function too often generates exponential increases in meaningless, distracting, and contradictory text that now besiege the medical record.
It is stupid to force physicians to wade through thousands of pages of copied notes and outdated laboratory results to locate the one meaningful sentence needed to provide care. One is reminded of the Disney version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Magic useful to add a few pails of water now floods the room. Humans invented the technology, and they must be responsible for controlling it. We are obliged to demand that this bloat be regarded as unsafe, inefficient, and unprofessional. Inappropriate use of copy/paste should be viewed as a patient safety danger. Must we await a medical malpractice case to enforce this truism? Perhaps we need to redefine the act of hiding needed information in a mountain of extraneous and contradictory words not as “annoyance,” but as “unprofessional?” Would it not be better if physicians enacted this change proactively, rather than be obliged to do so by lawyers? Must we await more obvious cases of harm or death?
The issue now is how to move the profession to a better and safer position as soon as possible. The discussion henceforth should be on how to most efficaciously accomplish this.
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