Posted by: chlost | March 7, 2011

“Paging Doctor Doorknobs….”

My mom has to take a drug that needs to be monitored very closely by her doctor. We have to have a blood check every so often to be sure her dosage is correct. Today was the day to have the most recent check.

As I dropped her off at the entrance to the clinic and returned to park the car, I noticed that the parking lot was full. I had to park far away from the door, even though I have a handicapped permit for the car. All of the handicapped spots were full.

I went into the clinic to get her checked in. The entire lobby of the clinic was filled with people waiting to check in for their appointments. The line went all the way down the hall, then doubled over itself. It looked like the entrance to Walmart the Friday after Thanksgiving. Kids, parents, the elderly in wheelchairs as well as in chairs placed along the wall.  Very pregnant women. Very sick people.

There were three very harried women trying to process all of these people. The word went up and down the line that a fourth woman had called in sick. She was the smartest person of all those in that building.  Why? What was behind this?

The clinic has just switched over to electronic medical records.

This is a very small town. It is a small clinic. Granted, it was a Monday morning, and probably the height of cold and flu season. But it seemed as though every patient ever seen in this clinic had shown up this morning for an appointment.

In fact, that is what the computers thought. Every patient who had not been seen in the past three weeks was deemed a new patient by the computer. It required all information on each patient to be entered, each patient had to fill out new patient paperwork, provide insurance information and a picture i.d. It took an hour for me to get to the counter. My mom had been there two weeks ago, so she was in the system. It took about one minute to verify that and to notify her doctor that she was there.

I understand that these records will eventually save time and money. I know that it is necessary to keep up with new technology. But really, couldn’t they have handled the transition better than that? It appeared that they had no backup staff trained on the system, and those who were trained were struggling.

The doctor was grumbling about the technology, and how he hated to be looking at a screen rather than his patient. He is an older guy. I know he has practiced in this area for over 20 years. But he is trying to get with the system.

The people in line were pretty understanding for the most part. The grumbling was pretty quiet, and only a few people got snarky about it to the staff.

I have my own reservations about electronic records, primarily around the issue of security. I’m pretty touchy about privacy issues.

But as the doctor told my mom, once it is up and running, it will be “like snot on a doorknob”.



  1. icky. Snot on a doorknob? Is that some kind of Minnesota saying? Make sure this doctor washes his hands first!
    I’m impressed with how patient the patients were – that would not be likely in most places.
    I’m with you on this electronic storing of records – good and bad. All depends on how carefully security measures are followed.

    • That is not a Minn saying that I’d ever heard. The doc is an old-time type. He is learning, too.

  2. In the northern part of the state we sometimes say, “slicker than deer guts on a doorknob.” The meaning is the same.

    • I’ve never heard either saying, but both are quite descriptive!

  3. I hadn’t heard the doorknob saying. I’d wear gloves if I were him.

    I understand your concern about security, but our pediatrician has electronic records and it works out well – medication allergies are easily noted, in just a few seconds, they can tell me how many times they were seen for strep in the last six months and they fax prescriptions to the pharmacy while I’m in the office. Many times the prescription is ready by the time I get to the pharmacy, so it saves a trip (which is HUGE when I’ve got a sick/cranky kid on my hands.)

    • The benefits will be there, no doubt. It’s just getting through the startup period.

  4. I like that Doc! As a Nurse, I cringe everytime I go to the Doc because EVERYTHING seems to be done electronically now. I wonder if my Docs Nurses have even taken a manual blood pressure since they left Nursing School. My Doc does ALL of her charting on a laptop. There is no paper chart whatsoever. I love the snot on a doorknob reference! The guy has a great sense of humor. 🙂

    • Our clinic is working toward the paperless system, it has been challenging for them, and the older doctors are slowly learning the computerized system.

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