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Physicians’ Attitudes Towards Copy and Pasting in Electronic Note Writing



The ability to copy and paste text within computerized physician documentation facilitates electronic note writing, but may affect the quality of physician notes and patient care. Little is known about physicians’ collective experience with the copy and paste function (CPF).


To determine physicians’ CPF use, perceptions of its impact on notes and patient care, and opinions regarding its future use.


Cross-sectional survey.


Resident and faculty physicians within two affiliated academic medical centers currently using a computerized documentation system.


Responses on a self-administered survey.


A total of 315 (70%) of 451 eligible physicians responded to the survey. Of the 253 (80%) physicians who wrote inpatient notes electronically, 226 (90%) used CPF, and 177 (70%) used it almost always or most of the time when writing daily progress notes. While noting that inconsistencies (71%) and outdated information (71%) were more common in notes containing copy and pasted text, few physicians felt that CPF had a negative impact on patient documentation (19%) or led to mistakes in patient care (24%). The majority of physicians (80%) wanted to continue to use CPF.


Although recognizing deficits in notes written using CPF, the majority of physicians used CPF to write notes and did not perceive an overall negative impact on physician documentation or patient care. Further studies of the effects of electronic note writing on the quality and safety of patient care are required.

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The authors would like to thank Drs. Erika Abramson, Susan Bostwick, Joseph Cooke, and Charles Schleien. Dr. O’Donnell was funded through the Department of Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical College as a Fellow in Outcomes and Effectiveness Research. The authors of this study have no financial conflicts of interest to disclose.

This study was funded by Weill Cornell Medical College through support for Dr. O’Donnell as part of her fellowship in the Department of Public Health. There was no external funding for this study.

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Correspondence to Heather C. O’Donnell MD, MSc.

Additional information

Portions of the study data were presented at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco, CA, in November, 2007 and the Pediatric Academic Society Annual Conference in Honolulu, HI, in May, 2008.

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O’Donnell, H.C., Kaushal, R., Barrón, Y. et al. Physicians’ Attitudes Towards Copy and Pasting in Electronic Note Writing. J GEN INTERN MED 24, 63–68 (2009).

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  • medical records system, computerized
  • documentation/mt [methods]
  • attitude of health personnel
  • medical staff, hospital
  • user-computer interface