From My Pen to Your e-Record

Vernon Huang, an anesthesiologist, and his company, Shareable Ink, have created a pen that both writes on paper, and transfers your writing to an electronic health record system through the use of a tiny camera in the pen that keeps track of what you are writing.  (see article here)  Given that a majority of health care providers still use paper records today as a way to document patient visits, a pen that allows for conversion to paper’s electronic cousin is a welcome improvement in the health records environment.

Dr. Huang also notes that the pen allows for the conversion of data into discrete data elements as part of the import process to the health record.  So, for example, a medical assistant documenting a patient’s heart rate and blood pressure on paper with the pen can have those discrete data elements entered into the patient’s chart as individual data elements for reporting and analysis.

This invention is an interesting twist on EHR adoption issues.  One of the main problems that users complain about is the loss of speed (or the sense of loss of speed) that results from having to use a keyboard and mouse to document patient care.  This is particularly acute in practices that rely on high daily patient volumes to keep the doors open, such as the private practice of your family doctor, pediatricians, and some specialists (my dermatologist was done with me in 8 minutes flat, and that included me getting undressed).

There are other security concerns with a pen that makes entries into a database system (like non-repudiation – that we know who purports to be using the pen is really the person they say they are), but this invention may go a long way to moving resistant practices to an EHR.  Remember – Medicare and Medicaid will pay between $50,000 and $60,000 per qualified health care provider in incentives for those that adopt an EHR and demonstrate “meaningful use.”  Stay tuned.

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Maryland technology attorney and college professor.

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