COMMENTARY

John Mandrola's Top 10 (er, 11) Cardiology Stories of 2013

John M. Mandrola, MD

Disclosures

December 20, 2013

In This Article

EMRs and the Blogosphere

10. EMR and the Danger It Poses to the Patient-Doctor Connection

Among Mr. Obama's broken promises (if you like your insurance plan...) was that the efficiency inherent in electronic medical records (EMRs) would solve the growing cost of healthcare.

In 2013, nearly every doctor is being forced to adopt an EMR. Medicine is replete with examples of good ideas gone awry. There is no better example of this than medical EMR systems. The list is long: EMRs interface poorly with users (doctors). Completing a medical record on an encounter for a common heart rhythm ailment requires me to click more than 25 times. (Fact: EMRs either decrease the number of patients one can see, or worse, they cause a doctor to spend less face time with each patient.) EMRs don't talk to each other -- and in their current form, never will. There is not a shred of evidence that they improve real outcomes. EMRs function more as a billing invoice than a useful medical record.

Doctors are the end-users but not the customers of EMR companies, so our feedback carries little weight. EMR companies effectively answer to no one. And talk about conflict of interest: Anointed EMR companies have become immensely profitable. Even the New York Times took notice.[12]

None of this is the worst part. The worst aspect of EMR systems (in their current form) is that they threaten to remove the humanity from something that at its heart should be human: the patient-doctor connection. In 2013, EMR is one of the many forces that threaten the patient-doctor relationship. If this situation improves in 2014, I'll report it; but I'm not optimistic. (Full disclosure: I love computers.)

11. Social Media

The American College of Cardiology, the Heart Rhythm Society, the BMJ, and the New England Journal of Medicine are all actively engaged in social media and blogging. I gave a talk at an Indiana University medical student leadership conference this year. Nearly every medical student was on Twitter. So is the president of the ACC and SCAI, as are millions of patients.

The democracy of information on social media enhances patient involvement in medical decision-making. When patients have information, decisions improve. AF patient Mellanie True Hills has made her Website, StopAfib, a go-to resource for patients, a place where influential academic leaders in electrophysiology have taken the time to be interviewed. Social media empowers patient advocates.

Social media is also transforming influence. In the past, the only influencers in cardiology were academic leaders -- those who have access to medical journals. That is changing. Look at me: I am a nobody in the academic world, yet Dr. Rich Fogel, the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), put me on the same stage with Dr. Douglas Zipes, Dr. Brian Olshansky, and Dr. Anne Curtis at the 2013 HRS sessions to speak about ICDs.

Finally, this is speculative, but I believe that social media has the power to transform medical education. This year, the biggest electrophysiology story from the 2013 European Society of Cardiology Congress was the Echo-CRT trial.[13] This was a practice changer because it put a stop to implanting CRT devices in patients destined to be nonresponders. Dr. Jay Schloss (Christ Hospital, Cincinnati, Ohio), writing on his personal blog, provided clear and useful coverage for free, without the need for registration. Another example: I think IV-diltiazem is overused and misused. In the academic literature, you cannot find a contemporary piece to support this view. But you can on social media.

This is my top 11 for 2013. I invite you to use the comments section to share your top cardiology picks.

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