Physicians today spend half their day typing patient information into electronic medical record systems or doing other administrative work, according to a 2016 study by the American Medical Association. This is taking the joy out of practicing medicine and leading to unprecedented frustration and burnout. We did not go to medical school to sit behind a computer or through hours of meetings about ICD-10 coding. Our primary responsibility is to treat patients.
The good news is we are finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel particularly with technology that adapts to physicians’ needs. For much of the past decade, I’ve worked with physicians on clinical documentation to make sure it accurately reflects the level of care needed and delivered to patients. With almost every physician, I find opportunities to clarify the good care provided to help them enhance details that will make a difference to patients, other caregivers, and will help keep organizations afloat.
Today technology advances are starting to support that effort, making the physician’s job easier and more rewarding. Here are three technology advances I see helping physicians do a better job with clinical documentation while easing the administrative burden:
Harnessing machine learning is a quest for many in and out of the healthcare industry. Clinicians and researchers see the potential of machine learning aiding with diagnoses, medical data collection, drug discovery, and robotic surgery. Although this sounds futuristic, it’s happening today, and it is helping relieve some mundane tasks physicians don’t like to do.
Technology already gives us a way to analyze our patient notes in real time and can advise how to make those notes stronger and more specific – examples include ICD-10 codes, quality indicators and secondary conditions. With algorithms operating in the background, machine learning makes it possible to derive data-driven insight or predictions from available clinical information, facts and evidence, helping to make things actionable. This can speed the process of so many things in medicine that take physicians’ eyes and focus from the patient today.
Look to the Cloud
It’s critical for doctors to record their clinical impressions and recommendations as accurately as possible while it’s still fresh in their minds. That gets tricky when the average patient visit lasts 10 minutes. Today physicians see high volumes of patients and those patients are sicker, and visit more locations and specialists. The cloud has been a game changer, making information easier to share and access beyond a single visit or site. In a recent survey, 100% of clinicians said Nuance’s cloud-based clinical speech recognition platform makes it easier to document in the EHR; more than nine out of ten believe it improves quality and makes it easier to capture the complete patient story and 99% would recommend it to a friend. Clinicians are embracing these technologies to reduce inefficiencies, and administrative tasks so they can do what they do best, practice medicine.
Outside of the office, most people rely on their smartphone as a connection to the world – directions, reservations, answers, entertainment, and yes, communications – anywhere, anytime. So, why should physicians be chained to their desks when it’s time to document a patient visit?
Mobility is part of life, so physicians should be able to have a documentation solution that goes where they go. Whether we’re at the office, at home, or on the road, it makes life easier to be able to add that note that we just remembered, or update a chart after hours.
For example, the cloud has simplified sharing patient medical images across facilities, health networks or regions with tools like Nuance PowerShare, which resembles Dropbox and is just as easy. Physicians can now download a patient’s medical images on a tablet in seconds to get the information they need to prepare for the patient sitting in their waiting room or advise colleagues on whether a patient does need surgery. These tools make it easier to deliver high quality of care efficiently by providing secure access to information without searching, calling, or driving in off hours.
Change is not always easy, and sometimes clinicians want to cling to the way they’ve always done things. However, new technologies are turning heads. Embracing technology can lead to better outcomes, especially when time is still scarce, and physicians are latching on to these three technology advances, which can make life easier, and give doctors back time to focus on their primary goal of treating patients.