Things Babies Born Now Will Never Know: Practices Built on Typewriters, Telephones and Paper Records

I can’t help but think of some of the things kids born this year or last will never know.

For example, video tape and video stores are virtually gone already. Watches, paper maps and newspaper classifieds are on their way out; and perhaps newspapers, too.

Wired phones are hard to find (though my children will probably see a land line in my house because of their benefit in hurricanes and other natural disasters.)

Printed encyclopedias (some of the last were printed this year) and, likewise, encyclopedia salesmen are history. Printed phones books I still get, and use, but they will one day stop coming to the door; CDs, film and fax machines are all but obsolete, though, there are still enterprises trying to make their livings peddling their wares to help organizations send secure faxes.

I don’t consider myself to be old by any means; just part of a transitional generation. I remember paying $1 for a gallon of gasoline and I remember protestors picketing gas stations in Southern California when the prices topped $1.50 a gallon.

I was introduced to the web via dial-up Internet and wondered when its value would be achieved, as it was difficult to imagine a life lived through the web one AOL minute after another.

Now, the Internet is considered one of the most innovative advancements of all time. Healthcare, and nearly every other business sector, will never be what it once was because the technology allows for continuous advancement and the development of tools like EHRs, patient portals, HIEs and mobile devices.

Why all the reminiscing, then, about all of the gadgets that my children will never know?

Simple. My primary care physician uses paper charts. She has no plans to change and is unapologetic about it. Her patients sometimes ask her why and she shrugs it off like it’s not important, an overly hyped issue. One that she’d rather not discuss and one she might wish went away.

The wall of charts behind the reception desk is a symbol of her success. They represent patients she’s treated, conditions faced by the people she cares about, meetings with those of us she’s counseled. Perhaps that wall of record is her trophy case, a testament to her professionalism, outstanding demeanor and nature, and the trust she’s earned with all of us.

She doesn’t want to be forced into any kind of decision that affects her business – that’s how she sees her practice, as a business — even if she’s ultimately penalized because of it.

Though she’s got the paper to sift, she claims to be organized and just as efficient as any machine could make her. The notes enclosed are her own and won’t be shared with anyone. The only incentive for paper these days is the recycle bin.

But, she carries on. For now.

In the end, though, she’ll probably close shop, shred the records and move on to retirement if her decision not to implement an electronic health record means she can’t continue to do what she loves – practice medicine and provide care.

She has that luxury. She’s of a certain age. She remembers things that many of us have never experienced. She grew her business on typewriters, dial telephones and paper records.

And soon, she will become one more thing my children will never know.

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