While documentation is important, many doctors find it is bogging them down and reducing the amount of time they’re able to spend with patients. A recently published study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that for every hour physicians in the study saw patients, they spent nearly two additional hours on paperwork. This is compacted by the fact that, outside of the office, physicians spent an additional one to two hours on paperwork or clerical tasks.
All this paperwork is greatly contributing to physician fatigue. In fact, nearly two-thirds of family doctors report experiencing some symptoms of burnout, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. The organization adds that “the trend is moving in the wrong direction.”
“Let’s not dance around it — we all know how much the electronic health record has contributed to the physician burnout epidemic,” Bridget Duffy, chief medical officer at Vocera, tells Healthcare IT News. “Physicians who once were absorbed in speaking with and examining their patients found themselves spending more time clicking through screens and pecking away at a keyboard.”
And while health IT tools, such as electronic health records, have turned out to be part of the problem, research and tools are emerging to address this issue and, hopefully, cut back on the amount of time providers spend documenting visits.
1. Note-taking Systems Let Doctors Share the Burden
Most recently, research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that doctors at UCLA Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center were reducing the time spent on documentation by encouraging patients to help write and add notes to their personal medical charts using “OurNotes,” a virtual note-taking system.
The program is part of the OpenNotes movement, which encourages patients to cowrite notes with their doctors. It creates more accurate medical records and increases patient engagement while reducing the provider workload.
“If executed thoughtfully, OurNotes has the potential to reduce documentation demands on clinicians, while having both the patient and clinician focusing on what’s most important to the patient,” lead author Dr. John Mafi, assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said in a statement on the results.
Going forward, UCLA will launch pilot programs of the OurNotes technology at four centers. Researchers spoke with dozens of clinicians familiar with cowriting technologies in healthcare to build the program and ensure its success.
2. Google Glass Offers Doctors a “Remote Scribe”
As Google relaunches its smart glasses platform with an enterprise focus, healthcare organizations are already on board to introduce the tech in patient rooms to offer new ways of delivering and streamlining care to patients.
San Francisco-based clinical practice Dignity Health, for example, has been using the wearable Google Glass in conjunction with healthcare software Augmedix. The software links the Glass tech with a “remote scribe,” a medically trained professional who can remotely take notes while the doctor sees a patient, saving doctors hours of time, HealthTech reports.
According to MobiHealthNews, doctors at Dignity Health are seeing significant time savings. Vice president and chief medical information officer, Davin Lundquist, reports that after three years of using Glass for this purpose, he has reduced the time he spends on administrative tasks from 30 percent to less than 10 percent per day.
“Our physicians are our most valuable asset,” Lundquist tells MobiHealthNews. “They’re obviously smart enough and bright enough to make it through medical school to get to the point where they can provide physician-level care. But our medical records and documentation systems so far have turned them into clerks … and it gets in the way a little bit of doctors being doctors. Glass has allowed us to get back to our main mission, which is seeing patients.”
3. Having the Right Tech in Place Can Go a Long Way
While these tools can offer some physicians relief from the everyday paperwork onslaught, ensuring that a healthcare organization has the necessary IT infrastructure in place to properly support tools like EHRs can go a long way in making life easier for clinicians.
“Having systems not working properly, broken or simply not available is problematic, and downtime is much more frequent statistically than most users and organizations realize,” Scott Alldridge, CEO of the IT Process Institute, tells Healthcare IT News. “This is costly and can cause much user frustration and stress.”
A big part of laying the correct groundwork is ensuring that EHRs are properly integrated into the system and easily searchable for physicians, so they don’t spend precious time in the patient room trying to find the right record. To ease this process, relevant information should be identified and filed in the EHR’s appropriate data field.
“Important test results are sometimes lost amidst the large amount of paperwork still being sent from outside specialists and diagnostic centers,” Par Bolina, chief innovation officer at health IT consulting firm IKS Health, tells Healthcare IT News. “This means that the information is quickly searchable and readily available during a visit. It also means that the information is reportable and contributes to the critical clinical quality reporting that organizations require in a world of value-based care.”