The shrink, the couch and the computer

UNM HSC Medical Informatics Program

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Albuquerque – When patients visit a psychiatrist, they want to talk and might be put off by a computer in the room, but this may change as electronic health records systems permeate health care, including psychiatry.

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (HSC) here has started to test the use of a computerized electronic charting system for psychiatrists, said Dr. Philip Kroth, assistant director of informatics program development.

Kroth said HSC plans to evaluate the effects the e-charting system will have on the sensitive interactions between patient and psychiatrist. The center wants to find out how patients will react when the psychiatrist turns from them to the computer.

HSC will use an e-charting system developed by Duke University. Dr. Randall Stewart will manage the project under a medical informatics fellowship funded by the National Library of Medicine. Stewart started working on the center’s behavioral health electronic medical record project as a resident in HSC’s Department of Psychiatry in 2002.

Kroth said the new HSC Health Informatics Department has a number of other projects under way including studying medical professionals’ ethical use of e-mail and developing a human tissue repository and database for cancer research, among other things.

The overall focus of the HSC health informatics program, Kroth said, is to help develop “the most efficient systems, to provide the best health care at the lowest price.”

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