Recently, The New Yorker published an article entitled Why Doctors Hate Their Computers. Considering over 90% of American hospitals have transitioned to electronic health records (EHR) this past decade, “hating” the computer is a hot topic for most healthcare professionals.
In this article, surgeon and public-health researcher, Atul Gawande, describes his organization’s digital transformation. He lays out the good, the bad and the ugly of EHR management and its negative impact on patient care. The irony of this is that technology holds the elusive promise to make our lives easier and more efficient, but in reality, things aren’t always that easy. They certainly weren’t in this case of Dr. Gawande.
The EHR Promise
Throughout the piece, Atul describes his organization’s implementation of popular EHR platform, Epic. The project evoked a lot of unease around the hospital because, after all, not everyone is excited about having to learn a new system. But, in the end, the technology was supposed to keep the healthcare industry current on the technological advancements and enable hospitals to help more patients. Upper management promised this platform would streamline tasks and save serious time overall. However, this did not turn out as anticipated.
The True Cost
Instead, the technology that had promised to save the doctor’s time indeed had the opposite effect. This is likely not the fault of the EHR system itself, but rather all the ancillary factors in an EHR conversion such as learning curve/change management, data transfer issues and workflow updates. Doctors were spending twice as long navigating pesky pages and identical tabs and losing quality interactive time with their patients. This not only led to loss of revenue, it also led to what the doctors felt was a diminished quality of care, including the inability for them to make a personal connection with their patients. Not surprisingly, many healthcare facilities across the country have encountered the same obstacles with EHR systems.
National Stats on EHR Related Stress
In fact, with the introduction of EHRs, time in the day work healthcare has actually shrunk for providers. Many have been forced to document and manage patient charts after hours, which means either a loss of personal time with their families or an inability to see more patients. According to a study held by the University of Wisconsin, the average workday for doctors has increased from 9 to 11.5 hours.
This extra work often leads to decreased morale in the majority of healthcare providers. Burnout has been a hot-button issue in healthcare, and for good reason. It’s reported that a staggering 40% of doctors in the United States have been diagnosed with depression, with 7% admitting to struggling with suicidal thoughts. These rates are approximately twice that of the general population. This may explain why doctors are moving toward part-time positions, retiring earlier and switching careers altogether.
A New Path
These issues and more are brilliantly captured in the New Yorker article. At Partners HealthCare, the increased workload led to hiring specialized personnel to resolve their numerous technical problems, such as scribes for recording data in order to allow the doctors to have more face-to-face time with their patients. They have also hired pharmacists to double check medication orders, another extension of the staff. In the end, healthcare providers are still looking to find solutions that will deliver efficiencies and leave time and mindshare for exemplary patient care.
Don’t Hate Your EHR: Create a Permanent Solution
Many healthcare providers are moving toward specialized services, like ScanSTAT, to analyze EHR workflows and provide staff resources to find the most efficient way to meet documentation requirements AND deliver a stellar patient experience without sacrificing quality or taxing their already stretched budgets.
Interested in learning more about our EHR support services? Schedule a free EHR workflow analysis today.