How Doctors Can Use Evernote As A Professional Memory Accessible Anywhere (Part 1 of 3)

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Evernote — a new searchable, available-anywhere, online personal database — recently became indispensable to my medical practice.

Technologies like Evernote make it obvious that we deal with information that lives in two worlds. The first, the physical world of paper, is populated by written medical records, scribbled notes, and stacks of printed journals that arrive in the mail. Information in this world is maddeningly localized — ask any physician who's struggled to find a missing lab report among piles of paper on their desk.

In contrast, the digital world — and we can substitute "cyberspace" or "the cloud" or your favorite phrase here — is inhabited by electronic medical records, web-based email, and online databases. The characteristic of this world is that information is searchable, available-anywhere, and (hopefully) securely backed-up online in multiple locations.

The beauty of Evernote is that it acts as a portal between the paper and digital worlds. Here's an example: let's say you've just read a review article on hypertension in the New England Journal of Medicine. This paper article contains an important table on drugs to treat hypertension that you'd like to refer to at a later time. Traditionally, articles like this would be torn out, stapled, and placed in a bulging filing cabinet for later retrieval. But too often, finding the article is too difficult, and it just takes up space for years until the information is outdated. Sound familiar?

By using Evernote, physicians can easily convert that critical table into digital form. (The journal itself can be recycled — it's no longer needed.) You can enter the table into Evernote in at least three ways:
  • By taking a photo using the camera on your phone and emailing it to your personal Evernote email address
  • By scanning the article directly into the Evernote program on your computer — I'm personally a fan of the Fujitsu Scansnap for quickly transferring any paper items I'd like to later retrieve to Evernote
  • By accessing the article on the NEJM website and using Evernote's "webclipping" program to highlight the table
Once in Evernote, the table can be named ("Table of Drugs to Treat Hypertension") and tagged ("Hypertension," "NEJM"). Evernote even recognizes the text in the table — for example, the drug "metoprolol" — and makes it all searchable. The online Evernote database synchronizes automatically with the Evernote database on your computer. And here's the beautiful thing — anytime you want to refer to that table, you can either
  1. Search for "hypertension," "metoprolol," or "NEJM" on the Evernote program on your computer
  2. Search Evernote online using any web browser
  3. Search Evernote with the web browser on your mobile phone or with the Evernote program for the iPhone
The information in that article is now available almost anywhere. Just think of all the space you'll save in your filing cabinets by never filing away a journal article again.

But this is only a small taste of the capability of Evernote. Without much fanfare, the Evernote Corporation has created the perfect tool for designing a customizable, hybrid electronic health record (EHR). I'll explain how to create an EHR in Evernote in Part 2.

(Also posted on The Efficient MD.)
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About the Author


MD, FACP, FASN

Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.

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