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West J Emerg Med. 2017 Jan;18(1):133-136. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2016.10.31294. Epub 2016 Dec 15.

Medical Student Documentation in the Electronic Medical Record: Patterns of Use and Barriers.

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Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.
Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia.
Rush Medical College, Department of Emergency Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.
Cooper University Health Care, Department of Emergency Medicine, Camden, New Jersey.



Electronic health records (EHR) have become ubiquitous in emergency departments. Medical students rotating on emergency medicine (EM) clerkships at these sites have constant exposure to EHRs as they learn essential skills. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), and the Alliance for Clinical Education (ACE) have determined that documentation of the patient encounter in the medical record is an essential skill that all medical students must learn. However, little is known about the current practices or perceived barriers to student documentation in EHRs on EM clerkships.


We performed a cross-sectional study of EM clerkship directors at United States medical schools between March and May 2016. A 13-question IRB-approved electronic survey on student documentation was sent to all EM clerkship directors. Only one response from each institution was permitted.


We received survey responses from 100 institutions, yielding a response rate of 86%. Currently, 63% of EM clerkships allow medical students to document a patient encounter in the EHR. The most common reasons cited for not permitting students to document a patient encounter were hospital or medical school rule forbidding student documentation (80%), concern for medical liability (60%), and inability of student notes to support medical billing (53%). Almost 95% of respondents provided feedback on student documentation with supervising faculty being the most common group to deliver feedback (92%), followed by residents (64%).


Close to two-thirds of medical students are allowed to document in the EHR on EM clerkships. While this number is robust, many organizations such as the AAMC and ACE have issued statements and guidelines that would look to increase this number even further to ensure that students are prepared for residency as well as their future careers. Almost all EM clerkships provided feedback on student documentation indicating the importance for students to learn this skill.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

By the WestJEM article submission agreement, all authors are required to disclose all affiliations, funding sources and financial or management relationships that could be perceived as potential sources of bias. The authors disclosed none.

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