Thursday, February 5, 2009

OSCAR User Interview: Dr. Robbie Coull

Dr. Robbie Coull, Charlottetown, PEI

I'm a UK trained GP recently moved to Charlottetown, PEI.  I'm based in a community health center and I am currently building up my practice.

I've noticed that you've written a book for Locums. What can you tell us about that?

When I started doing locum work in 1998, I set up a website with my calendar and CV for practices.  I added a 'how to' section for new locums about a year later, and it grew over time.   Finally, it grew so big that I decided to tidy it up and publish it as a 'publish on demand' paperback.  

POD is great because you can publish a niche book for a couple of hundred dollars and then people can buy it through Amazon or any other bookseller.  The cost of printing and shipping it is only around $15 per book, and it's all handled by the POD company who pay you the profits each month.  It's become the textbook for locum GPs in the UK - largely because it's the only textbook for locum GPs in the UK!

When I got the OSCAR user manual printed by Staples I was taken aback to find it cost about $120.  If I get the time, I'd love to write an OSCAR handbook and POD publish it - should save users a lot of money on printing out huge PDF.

Is there an EMR community in PEI?

The government here went down the road of commissioning an EMR from a local company.  Sadly, to not put too fine a point on it, the resulting EMR was useless.  As a result, almost no one is using EMRs in PEI.  I think I know of two other doctors using one on the island.

Hopefully, OSCAR can change that!

What brought you to OSCAR?

I heard about OSCAR from Jel Coward, now a GP in Pemberton, BC.  I knew Jel online through the UK Pre-Hospital Care discussion lists.

Is being the first OSCAR user in PEI a bit of a challenge?

Actually, it's a life saver!  I trained on a DOS based EMR, and I've never worked without one.  So going back to paper was the challenge. OSCAR has allowed me to keep my sanity.

Can you describe the OSCAR set up that you have?

I think the British system of 'one room consulting' suits EMRs better because you stay by the computer and the patient comes to you.  So I've set up a consulting room with an Ubuntu computer and laser printer and I bring the patients in one at a time.

I also have a wifi box, wifi printer, and an Acer Aspire netbook with Ubuntu on it which I can take into the examination rooms.  This is useful for the walk-in clinic where multi-room consulting is more efficient.

You are showing other doctors OSCAR in your area. What type of interest are you discovering?

People here are very interested in OSCAR.  I don't think they can get their head round the idea that the software is free to use, and many of them have never used an EMR so it's quite a steep curve.

My biggest problem is that things that I think are obvious are not clear to doctors that have never used a fully-featured EMR.

Do you have any advice for doctors that haven't taken the EMR plunge?

Are you nuts?  What are you waiting for?

Seriously, though: get in touch with someone nearby who uses OSCAR and beg them to help you get yours set up.  Today.

In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Coull writes a blog for OSCAR users. This blog can be found at The "Locum Doctor Survival Guide" can be ordered online.

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