By Jen Sweeney
While digital transformation is affecting workers in every industry, it’s causing especially acute pain in health care. According to recent surveys, physicians are 15 times more likely to experience burnout than professionals in any other line of work. The most cited reasons are documentation and increased computerization.
For example, consider the experience of Dr. Jeffrey B. Johnson, a Chicago-area obstetrician who estimates he’s delivered more than 14,000 babies in his 50-year career. As explained by Chicago Daily Herald columnist Burt Constable, when the hospital that employed Dr. Johnson implemented a new electronic medical record (EMR) platform, it began requiring practitioners to complete training for the system. Because Dr. Johnson refused to take classes and get up to speed on the new system, he can no longer can deliver babies.
For their part, healthcare leaders must take steps to reduce burnout and frustration. We highlight three in a recent blog post—fragmentation and interoperability, mobility, and providing patient-focused care.
As employees, you also have a responsibility. Here are three of healthcare transformation’s top tech challenges, plus steps you can take to overcome them:
Challenge 1: Eliminate fragmentation, encourage interoperability
Between 2008 and 2015, electronic health record (EHR) adoption doubled—as of 2015, 96 percent of hospitals and 87 percent of physician practices were using electronic health records. However, the issues of interoperability and fragmentation remain.
For a system to work, you, as employees, need to know how to use it, why you should use it, and where to get help. When you are suddenly required to use a new, unfamiliar application or to change a work process you’ve relied upon for years, avoid regarding it as an unwelcome intrusion. Instead, consider it one of many necessary steps toward a worthy objective—that is, to create a human-centered approach to healthcare that is not reactive, but preventative.
As you begin to use new systems, provide IT and managers with feedback—does the technology enable you to work more efficiently and to improve the patient experience? If not, identify the missing element and share it with a manager. Do you need more training, coaching or support?
Challenge 2: Making mobile healthcare work
Mobile technology is critical in healthcare, but when it becomes a jumble of noise from paging systems, voice, text, and device alarms, it’s counterproductive and can cause communications overload. Healthcare organizations recognize this issue and are making significant investments in smartphone and secure mobile platforms to enable communications between clinicians and between clinicians and patients, according to a recent survey by Spyglass Consulting Group. The survey notes that nine out of 10 healthcare systems plan significant investments in smartphones and secure unified communications over the next 12 to 18 months.
Always-on availability isn’t necessarily a bad thing—not too long ago, employees across all industries could actually choose whether they wanted to be available via mobile device. It’s nearly a requirement today, regardless of rank, department or position. As more organizations begin implementing mobile systems, time may start to seem even more scarce.
Combat communications overload by identifying applications and features that are relevant to your position and learn how to use them. Look at mobility as more than a series of interruptions—see it instead as a powerful tool that enables you and your colleagues to provide the best care possible no matter where you are.
Challenge 3: Implementing a patient-centered approach to care
If you, as an employee, are frustrated or overwhelmed, consider how much frustration and confusion patients experience on a regular basis. While creating a patient-first culture depends greatly on your organization’s actions, you can also contribute to the transformation. Take note of the support and learning resources available to you, and use them often. Think about your own experience as a patient—How do you find a doctor? Is the process simple, or is it time-consuming and frustrating? How easy is it to access your own health records?
Determine what you believe makes a “good experience” and figure out how your company can enable you to provide that experience to others.
The digital transformation of healthcare is presenting numerous challenges—for business leaders, employees and patients alike. And it’s only going to intensify. While healthcare leaders must take steps to keep the transformation on track, employees should also take action to overcome the challenges technology delivers. By doing so, they reduce their chances of experiencing burnout and frustration, make their jobs more fulfilling, and, ultimately, improve the patient experience.
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