Doctors and other healthcare providers spend an ever-increasing amount of time dealing with paperwork instead of helping their patients. To remedy this situation, healthcare workflows should be redesigned so doctors can spend less time as data entry clerks and more time providing care.
Technology can be used effectively as an enabler, but it can also get in the way if it is poorly designed — as it usually is in healthcare, where the purpose sometimes seems to be more to enable more efficient billing, coding and scheduling instead of delivering care. In a clinical setting, for example, the interaction between patient and physician is often undermined by caregivers having to constantly contend with a screen and a keyboard. Also, physicians are using more of their “pajama time” to catch up with recordkeeping brought on by increased electronic health record documentation requirements, which includes having to figure out which codes to use for reporting and billing.
The burden of increased administrative tasks has contributed to physician burnout, which has become a significant problem among caregivers. Burnout can lead to increased medical errors, reduced working hours, or even physicians deciding to leave the profession altogether. A recent study spearheaded by the Massachusetts Medical Society called physician burnout a “public health crisis” and recommended significant changes to the usability of electronic health records and improved operability.
Here are some key areas we can focus on to improve healthcare workflows:
- Clinical decision support (CDS): Doctors rely on memory and must do a lot of reading to stay up to date on symptoms that are correlated with certain conditions. An effective CDS system can tap into a wealth of available medical literature to help physicians make the right diagnosis by analyzing a patient’s symptoms and complaints and combining that information with results from lab tests. A CDS system can also provide a variety of tools, such as computerized alerts to enhance decision making in the clinical workflow.
- Voice transcription: Voice recognition software can be very helpful in clinical settings by “overhearing” the conversation between physician and patient, taking notes, and identifying key medical terms, such as the duration of an illness or family health history. The conversation can be converted to text, and the information discussed can be used to recommend a diagnosis. This means a computer can record the patient’s vital signs via voice transcription, for example, freeing up the physician to focus on the patient instead of having to look up and down while taking notes.
- Persona-oriented design: One area DXC Technology is working on is the design of persona-based user interfaces and workstations geared toward enhancing the workflow of specific healthcare professionals, such as a doctor in a clinic or a nurse in an emergency room. The persona-oriented design focuses on providing an interface that flows seamlessly based on the features, tools and controls a specific healthcare provider needs to perform his or her job. The design is built on having a clear understanding of the professional’s work environment and means users don’t have to navigate through multiple modules in a system to find what they need.
The primary goal of using technology should be to improve healthcare workflows and enable clinicians to make better choices with their patients that lead to a better healthcare experience. Plus, it is important for doctors to improve their job satisfaction and reduce burnout. Healthcare professionals have always worked hard, and it’s getting even harder, so anything that can be done to make things more manageable — such as technology designed the right way to make the job easier — will be a welcome change.