I’m on my way to HIMSS17 today, along with over 40,000 other great people who are dedicated to improving informatics in healthcare. This includes health IT professionals, clinicians, executives, and vendors from around the globe. HIMSS17 is filled with educational sessions, the latest in IT products, and a plethora of opportunities to network. There is special focus on Alternative Payment Models, cybersecurity, innovation, interoperability, and population health. And lots of EHR vendors.
I’ll be presenting on Physician Burnout at the IBM Theater at 4pm on Monday. It’s in booth #1003 in the Exhibit Hall. I’ll capsulize the EHR message from our book Preventing Physician Burnout: Curing the Chaos and Returning Joy to the Practice of Medicine. I welcome you to attend this, as well as check out the great developments in IBM Watson Health in booths #1809 (IBM WH), #1712 (Merge), and #4861 (Truven).
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of such a heady gathering. In order to truly benefit from this swirl of opportunity, let’s stay grounded in the Lean principles of Respect for People and Continuous Improvement. All these insightful speakers, whiz-bang exhibits, and energetic networking events amount to little more than a fancy boondoggle if we don’t return to our hospitals and clinics able to make a difference for the doctors and nurses who are doing the real work of caring for patients on the front lines.
HIMSS17 and Respect for People
Health informatics is a blessing and a curse for frontline caregivers. Personally, I love the EHR for its many benefits, including:
- The chart is always available (well almost always).
- It’s legible.
- Multiple people can access it at the same time, and from anywhere.
- Data can be manipulated with graphs and charts to provide insights that otherwise would be missed.
I hate the EHR for its many faults:
- First and foremost, it has turned doctors and nurses into data entry clerks, wasting time doing work far below their level of expertise.
- The user interfaces are user-unfriendly, unintuitive, and take a lot of effort to learn.
- It removes physician and nurse focus from the patient, damaging the healing relationship at the heart of healthcare.
- It isolates physicians and nurses from each other, as we spend more time typing than talking, and less time visiting radiologists and pathologists to discuss diagnostic nuances.
- It “allows” physicians to get home for dinner with loved ones, but at the price of then returning to their keyboard later in the evening. (I have fallen asleep on my keyboard on more than one occasion trying to keep caught up from the days progress notes and inbox messages.)
- It reduces productivity, decreasing the number of patients we can take care of, and reducing revenues for physicians and hospitals alike.
Focus on Fixing the EHR
So here is my hope. Let’s all keep focused on serving our colleagues who are doing the most important work. Let’s help those who are engaged in healing interactions with the patients. That’s where value is added. And that’s where help is most needed.
Let’s ensure that any innovations we develop, any processes that get added, and any fixes we discover reduce the barriers and frustrations care givers encounter every day. Let’s refuse to add any additional burdens. And let’s remove those EHR-driven barriers that currently exist.
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