The things we could do with Medical Records, Part IV: The Time-Lapse EMR

Have you ever seen those videos where someone takes a photo of themselves every day for like ten years and then the play it back at 30 frames per second, so you see them go through ten years of their life in a couple minutes?

Can you imagine if instead of that video, someone were to hand you a stack of documents with descriptions of individual days on them, and a separate pile of spreadsheets that capture the meaningful digits for each day? Which of those two formats would you say gave you a better idea about the person in question? Which would be easier (provided a better scrubbing function on YouTube) to look back and see a specific day in? In which would you better see long-term trends and identify changes as they are happening?

In all those cases, the image series is far superior, so why are medical records stuck looking like this?

Imagine an EMR based around images, or a timeline, where the data collected by medical professionals augments the core story of the patient, rather than distracts from it. Imagine a medical record based around a daily portrait, taken by your nurse! Imagine how much more you could tell — day by day improvements or declines, the increase or decrease of machines, devices, and tubes, wounds closing and healing.

Doctors and nurses already send each other photos as a quick shorthand. They usually do this outside their policies or protocols, and sometimes in violation of medical privacy laws, but they do it because a picture is worth a thousand words, and no doctor has the time to type out a thousand words — they are too busy doing the backbreaking job they signed up for.

What if we made an EMR that supported the way clinicians practiced, rather than hindered them? I think it might be worth a shot.

This post is part of a series of explorations of what could happen in the EMR space done as an independent project at Cornell Tech in 2016. 
part 1, part 2, part 3