By Cat McAlpine, Product Marketing Analyst and Sometime Shakespearian 


“Just 13 more clicks ’til you’re out of here.”

The optometrist’s room is dim, as usual. My doctor, an older, gregarious man with excellent taste in cologne, is hunched over the exam room desktop computer, clicking rapidly. This is when he usually pivots in his rolling chair to ask me about theatre when he stumbles on the note in my file. Not this time. He correctly assumes I’ve been doing the same thing as the rest of the world, holed up inside, waiting. And waiting.

His flurry finally ends, and he sighs triumphantly. “Let’s get you out front to talk about new glasses,” he chirps.

But I’m still thinking about how he measured our visit. I’ve heard the metric before: it’s how we measure the user experience for electronic health records and telehealth systems. How many clicks does it take for a doctor to get through a visit? I’d never considered the daily toll technology takes on providers. My optometrist’s technology was a barrier to our visit, requiring time and energy in such demanding regularity that he knew exactly what stood between him and the end of our visit. 13 clicks.

New research from University of Missouri explored exactly how much work technology asks of us. The study, covered by Eric Wicklund for mHEALTH INTELLIGENCE, found that nurses can sometimes be doing twice as much work using digital solutions as when conducting visits in person.

“Howland, who analyzed telehealth activities at six family medicine clinics associated with MU Health Care, found that nurses engaged in connected health activities were doing twice as much as nurses focused on in-person care, often because they’re involved in daily monitoring and care management rather than the in-person and follow-up visits.” 

Eric Wicklund, Is Telehealth More Stressful for Nurses Than In-Person Care? 

In this instance, technology has failed to fit into existing workflows, and the labor associated with consistent care has been brushed off as administrative work. When talking heads tout our need to “humanize healthcare,” they often mean the recent movement to treat patients as consumers, and market to them as such. Wearable technologies, flashy portals, and individualized experiences are all considered a step towards re-humanizing the healthcare experience. But these advancements fail,assuming that technology intrinsically lightens the load for providers. And that’s not the case.

For already overburdened, burned-out providers, learning new platforms and workflows doesn’t connect them with patients any more easily. The real mission of humanizing healthcare should be to lessen providers’ burden, while safeguarding the patient experience, to simplify the care connection.

Richard L. Byyny, MD, FACP’s piece “Time matters in caring for patients: Twenty minutes isn’t enough” emphasizes how critical it is that doctors are familiar with their patients.

“The qualities that we physicians bring to our patients and society are many, but most important, we need to be present and engaged with our patients as individuals. The doctor-patient relationship remains the core of our professional responsibility, and our profession.” 

Richard L. Byyny, MD, FACP’s, Time matters in caring for patients: Twenty minutes isn’t enough 

If technology doesn’t grant time and effort back to providers, it isn’t doing its job. My physical therapist knows that my goal post ACL reconstruction is to be able to run, jump, climb, and kneel on stage as productions require me to. While I answered in my surveys at the sports medicine clinic that I was neither an athlete nor a dancer, my care plan is tailored to my activities because my provider took time to get to know me. I had to delay fight choreography because my knee wasn’t ready for it. There’s no checklist for that – I’ve asked. But my provider knew swords and stages were a part of the deal and asked the right questions.

Last week, my psychiatrist and I introduced our cats on screen because we were both at home. That wasn’t a crucial part of my care. But her drag-and-dropping a PDF of my genetic test results into our video conference was. I had been terrified by the paper I got in the mail, but walking through the document with my provider made much more sense. Together, we made an informed medication change decision based on how I metabolize different SSRIs (who knew?!). Technology helped us to both connect and provide/receive care.

To humanize healthcare, for both the patient and the provider, our technology must eliminate barriers, not add new ones. Good telehealth seamlessly integrates into existing workflows. It’s interoperable with other solutions, so that organizations don’t have to overhaul processes or retrain staff on existing solutions that work. Humanized healthcare focuses on communication and connections between patients and providers, and bridges the gaps between them. Technology doesn’t inherently simplify work for providers. Good technology is designed with intention, and tested to ensure that it actually eases provider burden.

In 2021, anyone can be accessible in just one or two clicks. It shouldn’t take more than that to connect with patients and provide them with compassionate care.



 
REFERENCES

Wicklund, Eric. “Is Telehealth More Stressful for Nurses Than In-Person Care?” MHealthIntelligence, 29 Apr. 2021, mhealthintelligence.com/news/is-telehealth-more-stressful-for-nurses-than-in-person-care.

Byyny, Richard. “Time Matters in Caring for Patients: Twenty Minutes Isn’t Enough.” Alpha Omega Alpha, 2016, alphaomegaalpha.org/pharos/PDFs/2016-2-Byyny.pdf.