In a relatively short time, health care providers across the U.S. have digitized their medical records. Incentivized by the HITECH Act of 2009, thousands of hospitals and doctors’ offices jettisoned their old color-coded manila folder filing systems and adopted electronic health record (EHR) systems. Today, nearly all hospitals and health systems use them as a primary tool for documenting patient care.

The transition has produced many benefits. Medical errors have decreased. Digitized records have helped improve care coordination and knowledge sharing. And to an extent, they are enabling patients to gain more access to their records.

And yet, this digital transformation has also produced unforeseen side effects. Well-intentioned regulations, billing requirements, and other pressures have led to physicians spending more and more of their time entering notes into their EHRs — often at the expense of time with patients. And as physician burnout has grown to epidemic proportions over the past decade, many feel that the design of EHRs, and their drain on physician attention, are at least partly to blame.

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