Bob Buckley for The Examiner: The Software Can’t Catch Everything

October 21, 2021

Bob Buckley, partner at White, Graham, Buckley & Carr, is a regular columnist for The Examiner of East Jackson County. In his latest column, Buckley expresses his thoughts on the rapid advancements in medical technology and why limiting human interaction may be a step in the wrong direction.

The article, The Software Can’t Catch Everything, was published in the October 16 edition of The Examiner. An excerpt from the article is below.

In 1968, Stanley Kubrick released a movie that changed the landscape of science fiction. It was “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

One of the principal characters in the movie is a computer named Hal 9000, artificial intelligence that had the capacity to experience feelings and sensations. Hal controlled the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacted with the ship’s astronaut crew. The computer engaged in deception and murder before it was finally destroyed. The movie painted a futuristic world in which computers had the capacity to destroy man.

Fifty-three years later, the capacity of artificial intelligence is mind-boggling. While computers don’t have the capacity to experience feelings and sensations, they do have the capacity to essentially replace our brains.

Approximately 11 years after Hal 9000 was unleashed on the cinematic world, Cerner was founded by three men from Kansas City, and it’s now one of the largest electronic medical record companies in the world and employs several thousand people in the Kansas City area. Its electronic medical record software can be found in many hospitals in the metropolitan area. A competitor is Epic, and its software is also used in many hospitals in the area.

I am familiar with both information systems as I spend a considerable amount of time in my practice reviewing medical records. Electronic records have saved me a lot of time and headaches. In the old days, we had handwritten records and had to decipher what nurses and doctors had written in the record. Electronic records are well organized and easy to access.

I can’t say that I prefer one provider over the other. They are organized differently, but it is much easier to review electronic records. I know the creators of electronic medical records did not invent this software to make my job easier, but it has that effect. They are time savers for health-care providers and make medical care more efficient.

A huge advantage of digital records is that I can perform word searches and find certain parts of a record easily. Optimization is a word that was not in my vocabulary 10 years ago. Optimization allows me to perform word searches rather than review hundreds if not thousands of pages of records looking for certain words and phrases.

While I believe electronic medical records have improved medical care, I have also seen some limitations. Often times there are “drop down” menus that enable the nurse or doctor to choose options. The same record can be repeated and the record defaults to the previous entry, so the nurse or physician must manually change the record if the sign or symptom of the patient changes. So, the nurse or doctor must be careful.