What Job Will Providers Do Today?
The trash needs to be emptied, the bathroom sink needs to be repaired, there’s a meeting tomorrow to prepare for, the report is due at 5:00 p.m.
We stay focused on these jobs. We measure our performance by how well we are doing the jobs on the list. After all, completing these jobs creates a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Some of us pride ourselves on our awareness of the jobs to be done and our ability to organize, multi-task and complete large numbers of things. Others pride themselves on breaking down a job and determining how to do it more efficiently.
How many of us, even occasionally, evaluate the list of jobs we do on a day-to-day basis? Periodic evaluation of this list will give us a good idea of how we spend our time and the impact we are having. We should not overlook the process of how jobs get on our list, or don’t.
Healthcare providers generally have an extremely clear-eyed view of the highest priority job on their lists: diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses, and address health maintenance. It’s why they got into the field of medicine in the first place. It’s what they trained years for, and what yields a demonstrable benefit to the individuals they treat, and to society at large.
But like most of us, providers don’t completely control their professional to-do list. There are many administrative tasks providers are obliged to do – more now than ever before, many would argue – including entering increasingly complex and precise professional charges (thank you, ICD-10!), and writing exhaustive clinical notes that contain as much information for reporting and billing purposes as for patient care. Providers themselves didn’t place these ancillary tasks on their to-do lists; their employers, health systems, payers or some other bureaucracy did. They can be extremely time-consuming and frustrating for providers. What’s more, when combined with myriad usability challenges associated with the EHR systems through which these tasks often must be executed, they can contribute to the well-documented, pervasive problem of physician burnout.
Accordingly, one of our jobs as healthcare IT developers ought to be to help mitigate (if not totally eliminate) the burden to providers of any and all tasks not directly associated with diagnosing and treating patients. But why stop there? We also can assist providers in their diagnosis and treatment tasks. We have access to all the patient’s clinical data. We have access to evidence. We have the power of artificial intelligence computing. We should not only remove administrative tasks but also assist in their primary tasks where we can. And we should make it more convenient, by ensuring that all provider interactions with technology can occur on their mobile devices via intuitive apps, because the vast majority of physicians today have a smartphone or tablet with them most of the time, and are accustomed to conducting the business of their personal lives on them.
So those of us in the healthcare IT profession should add to our to-do lists: help physicians remove unproductive administrative tasks from their to-do lists, and help them perform those that they signed up for more efficiently and effectively. Consider it health IT’s contribution to solving the physician burnout crisis, and improving the healthcare delivery system overall. We all need to be clear about what jobs we should be doing, and ensure they are the right jobs.