Electronic Medical Records, Medical Students, and Ambulatory Family Physicians: A Multi-Institution Study

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PurposeMedical students commonly encounter electronic medical records (EMRs) in their ambulatory family medicine clerkships, but how students interact with this technology varies tremendously and presents challenges to students and preceptors. Little research to date has evaluated the impact of EMRs on medical student education in the ambulatory setting; this three-institution study aimed to identify behaviors of ambulatory family medicine preceptors as they relate to EMRs and medical students.MethodIn 2015, the authors sent e-mails to ambulatory preceptors who in the preceding year had hosted medical students during family medicine clerkships, inviting them to participate in the survey, which asked questions about each preceptor’s methods of using the EMR with medical students.ResultsOf 801 ambulatory preceptors, 265 (33%) responded. The vast majority of respondents used an EMR and provided students with access to it in some way, but only 62.2% (147/236) allowed students to write electronic notes. Of those who allowed students electronic access, one-third did so by logging students in under their own (the preceptor’s) credentials, either by telling the students their log-in information (22/202; 10.9%) or by logging in the student without revealing their passwords (43/202; 21.3%).ConclusionsAmbulatory medical student training in the use of EMRs not only varies but also requires many preceptors to break rules for students to learn important documentation skills. Without changes to the policies surrounding student access to and use of EMRs, future physicians will enter residency without the training they need to appropriately document patient care.

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