How to make health IT the ally (vs. the enemy) of physicians
In 2018, a day in the life of a physician is dramatically different from what it was 20 years ago when I started practicing as a hospitalist. For starters, we are required to see more patients and handle more time-consuming administrative tasks. In addition, there are other factors that are making hospitals a more stressful, frustrating and dissatisfying work environment for physicians:
● Explosion of medical information – It has been suggested that the volume of medical knowledge doubles every few months; by 2020, it will be down to 73 days. That’s far beyond anyone’s processing ability, even physicians.
● Greater patient acuity – With increasing life expectancy comes more chronic and complex medical conditions. As the baby boomer generation ages, this trend is only expected to accelerate. When you pair that increase in patient acuity with a national physician shortage, the U.S. is likely facing a healthcare delivery crisis over the next 20 years.
● Rise in IT prevalence and complexity – It’s well-documented that physicians struggle to see value from most electronic health records (EHR) systems. In fact, it’s even been suggested that EHRs may be one of the biggest drivers of physician burnout.
The irony in all of this is that while the third factor is a huge problem directly caused by IT, the first two circumstances have the potential to be vastly improved by IT. Believe it or not, we’re on the cusp of technology becoming a key part of the solution rather than a central part of the problem.
But we aren’t there quite yet. If healthcare provider organizations want to optimize their EHRs, they should start by improving the physician experience. That means giving us bedside access to the most important and actionable patient information, and presenting it in a manner that is consistent with our unique thought processes and workflows. It also means allowing us to quickly synthesize and act on that information on the fly.
When IT helps each provider to be a little sharper and more efficient, and allows us to interact more (and more meaningfully) with patients, it will be welcome with open arms.
If you’re interested in reading more about my thoughts on health IT becoming part of the solution rather than the problem for physicians, please check out my recent article in HIT Consultant.