Doctors Don’t Like Their Computer’s Huh?

Good day again my fellow readers! Today, I have read (well more like listened but I digress) an article titled, “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers”, from the New Yorker. It tells the findings of a Massachusetts doctor and his experiences when his employing hospital sends him to, “16 hours of mandatory computer training,” to learn the new electronic medical record system, EPIC. This experience then kicks off a search for the reason why these systems make doctors hate them, and the effects it has on those doctors.

The hospital was switching from proprietary software to the EPIC software and as the author has used the system, it has worn him out. To make a long article short, EPIC had added many more steps, clicks, and time to processes that had in the past, gone much quicker. The author mentioned that in the first month of the EPIC rollout in the hospital the IT Helpdesk logged 27,000 tickets. Working in an IT department currently, I may have done a spit-take when I heard this. The author also mentioned that because of these new systems, for every hour of patient interaction there are two hours of paperwork that has to be entered in the system. There was also a Mayo Clinic study that discovered a link between the burnout of doctors and the amount of screentime that they are subjected to. Bad software is literally driving doctors out of their career. This really surprised me. All of us have come up against some bad software design before, but I would never guess that bad software would cause someone to quit their career. As the article went on, the writer revealed that the software creators of EPIC tailor the software to the hospital utilizing it. For his hospital, meetings were held where both doctors and administrators were invited. I immediately thought that the culprit here was the administrators. The folks higher up, or in a different department got their hands in the part and got their interests, prioritized over the doctor’s ones. Then later in the article, he talked to the chief clinical officer at Partner’s Healthcare, who turned the argument on its head. The software is not for the doctors or the administration. It’s for the patient as more patients look at their records and visit notes and want more understanding. This gave me pause as I myself take advantage of these features as a patient. Having access to all this information is very comforting. I had to mull this over for a bit but I came to the conclusion that the patient should be the main customer in this scenario. The whole point of a hospital is to serve the patient and with how care is extending beyond the hospital, the software is going to reflect this. For the Software Capstone, I will be working with AMPATH on their EMR for charity work in Africa. In that scenario, patient interaction will stay primarily in the hospital. In such a scenario I would say that the software should be directed towards the doctor. This reasoning is because the major usability that the patient will get out of it, is not an option for the patient due to their situation. We will definitely leave the option to shift the priority to the patient but, at the moment it appears that the doctors are the current priority in this situation.

This was definitely an interesting article and the next time I visit my doctor I do have an inclination to ask what EMR that they use and how they “like” it.

Until next time readers!

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