Today, patient data and patient information are essential components of delivering the best care. As healthcare expands beyond physical clinical settings and into digital channels, the need for data-driven, analytics-enabled, context-rich decision-making is only growing. Because of this, healthcare staff deal with ever-increasing amounts of data. In fact, health data proliferates so quickly, it doubles in volume every 73 days. How can our overburdened workforce keep up?
Information systems, such as electronic health records (EHRs) and other care technologies are meant to organize, manage and help care teams surface and apply various types of data. However, their usefulness is sometimes hindered by complex user interface design and a lack of empathetic cross-platform information delivery.
Too often, this results in healthcare staff struggling to navigate increasingly complex technology, with less time left over to focus on providing quality patient care. We can do better.
Research shows that ineffective user experience design can lead to safety hazards, decrease productivity and efficacy, and reduce the quality of care delivered to patients. Poor implementation of technology also has an impact on staff burnout; and with 60% of care team members feeling ready to leave their organizations due to burnout, it is long past time for health systems to reconsider how their technology investments impact their staff and their patients.
Fundamentally, technology should streamline processes in healthcare settings without interfering with quality care. That’s why, when considering new technologies, it is essential that health systems prioritize smart, empathetic tools that are intuitively designed and simple to use.
For the sake of clinicians, staff and their patients, health systems must rethink the purpose and use of their systems as we all migrate to a better-connected world. This is why, when it comes to healthcare technology, design matters deeply and ease of use is virtually everything.
Where systems design sometimes falls short
From their beginnings in the 1960s, clinical information systems have always been developed with the goal of improving virtually all aspects of patient care through improved access to data and cross-team coordination. This is an important aim, and the advent of these systems has started out as a net positive for the entire industry. However, many systems have not caught up to the speed and depth of changes in healthcare. The productivity tools of the past have become the present-day barriers to progress.
This can create major burdens for healthcare workers, who spend on average 4.5 hours a day on clinical documentation tasks, with many spending almost two hours a day completing those tasks outside of work hours.
Lack of a consistent standard across clinical and administrative systems also causes inherent interoperability issues for users who need to switch between different software platforms. Work toward adopting a consistent data standard, the United States Core Data for Interoperability, is only now in the very early stages.
These are key contributing factors leading care teams to spend an average of 16 minutes per patient visit in EHRs, instead of directly interacting with those who need care. Factoring in that the average patient visit is 24 minutes at the very longest, it becomes clear that EHRs have supplanted patients themselves as the primary focus of many doctors’ visits. Physicians agree, with 57% saying documentation takes away from time with patients.
Ultimately, systems should be designed to help people in their environment. The environments in healthcare and technology have changed; and if the environment changes, so too must the design of the solution.
Ease of use is everything
To provide quick, comprehensive, contextual and secure access to patient information and improve coordination across specialists, healthcare staff require streamlined technology solutions built with empathetic, human-centric design.
One solution may be a supplementary interface that can give healthcare staff an intelligent single point of access for necessary patient information regardless of its source. This reduces the need to switch between platforms and increases effectiveness at the moment, as staff can easily focus on the most essential tasks. An experience like this can also help leaders and teams identify patterns and trends in patient care, which can lead to improved outcomes and potential cost reduction.
This same approach can open the door for health systems to start exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) can help streamline workflows for staff. Leading health systems are starting to consider how to apply AI to enable smarter sharing of population health, health equity and medical records within and across community-based care teams.
Healthcare staff can truly benefit from intuitively designed, environmentally aware solutions that understand, support and enable their work. When their experience is simple to navigate and curated information is delivered from designated sources across systems, healthcare staff can be assured that all the information they receive is meaningful and actionable.
Simplified solutions, superior care
To ensure optimal healthcare staff experiences and quality patient outcomes, health systems need to carefully evaluate new solutions based on their proven ability to improve and streamline workflows while reducing complexity. By investing in empathetic, human-centric technologies that are easy to use, health systems will help their staff apply the information they need more quickly, coordinate with their care teammates more easily and identify patterns and trends that lead to systematically improved patient outcomes.
In an age of healthcare teams overwhelmed by overcomplicated system design and barriers to optimal information flow, simplified solutions are crucially needed. A more human approach to technology can help solve the challenges of the healthcare workforce now, enabling better care for all of us. This is the result that matters most, and we have no time to waste.
About Jon Zimmerman
As CEO of Holon Solutions, Mr. Zimmerman is responsible for setting the overall strategic direction for Holon Solutions and its Holon Community platform, which improves operational efficiency, care quality and the provider experience by liberating the data. Mr. Zimmerman’s career spans more than 35 years with a majority spent in healthcare engaging and serving providers and payers with companies such as IBM, Siemens, CareFusion, Allscripts, Availity and GE. He holds a patent on advanced Revenue Cycle Management.