All those of us who work in medical settings are deeply familiar with the increasing requirements for more documentation and administrative work designed to comply with government regulations and healthcare insurance rules.
In theory, major frameworks like the Joint Commission (JC) in the US are setting common standards to improve the quality and safety of care, with an understandable focus on reducing returns to the hospital for infections or other complications. The JC has been so successful, as far as measured results, that hundreds of hospitals and medical centers around the world are investing in educational and management programs enabling them to be certified, opening new doors to international patients with reimbursement at a lower cost to public and private payors.
In theory, comprehensive privacy compliance, like HIPAA, and standard system protocols, like HL7, enable software that allows for system integrity and software integration so the process of providing care can be strengthened, errors reduced, and costs controlled.
In practice, however, the pervasive nature of the combination of all these technologies, combined with overlay Electronic Medical Records (EMR), e-prescribing, real time voice, video and messaging applications runs the risk of turning doctors, nurses and others who entered the medical profession to help human beings into “humanoids” who spend more time at keyboards, computers, smartphones and other devices, typing and tapping throughout their shifts.
For many, so much time spent on the “digital paperwork” (along with actual paperwork which may also be required) contributes to burn-out and a sense of being overwhelmed by tasks so much so that there is less and less time for interacting with patients and thinking through problems with colleagues to serve those patients better.
As software improves following decades of this major move to the digitalization of providing and paying for care, we believe it is a perfect time to step back and rethink the critical importance of “human factors” in healthcare.
Human factors bring us back to the fundamentals of quality care – starting with listening, engaging in conversation, showing compassion, and being able to read the non-verbal clue patients share.
As more mundane tasks are automated, and new models for teamwork and management of necessary administrative functions are innovated, we have a moment in time to rediscover the joys and benefits of being able to spend time with patients and their families during traumatic times and over the long haul when managing chronic conditions.