Let's face it, a lot of doctors hate their computers. After reading through the article published by the New Yorker, I couldn't help but notice a lot of similarities in the various stories of different health professionals (nurses, health admins, neurosurgeons, etc) that are struggling with the adoption of new technologies in their fields. There seemed to be quite a few similar themes and patterns with each story. More and more organizations are adopting various technologies, and those technologies are rapidly advancing and always changing, so it can definitely be hard to keep up. However, instead of getting frustrated as an end user or forcing technology onto your organization "because it's the next greatest thing" as a leader -- you should have a strategy in place as well as an open mind.
Technology is a powerful thing and if implemented or used improperly, it can have adverse effects. However, when done the right way, it can be life-changing, especially in the field of health and medicine. I've compiled a list of health professional's generalized complaints and frustrations, and how embracing technology can actually help solve the very problems the users seem to be encountering.
"A 2016 study found that physicians spend 2 hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with a patient growing the average workday to 11.5 hours"
Listen, no one wants an 11.5 work day. No one wants to have to do monotonous tasks that seem trivial or repetitive. That's not what technology is here to do. One of technology's main roles in your organization should be to automate and essentially increase productivity. For this, it starts at the top. The new technologies need to be rolled out properly by the organization's leaders. When introducing a new technology to your company, make sure there is significant training beforehand and deploy the technology in small groups. Start with one department and learn about their challenges and successes and build from there. Make sure there are plenty of resources and a support team for them to reference once completely immersed into using this technology on a regular basis. For example, one thing Managed Solution does for new Office 365 users is offer a Customer Immersion Experience (CIE). This is a hands-on discovery of the Microsoft Office tools. It's not a demo. It's not a presentation. We allow the new users to use dummy devices with real-life scenarios built into the devices and they experience it as if it was their own. We also only do this in groups of up to 12 users for one-on-one interaction. With this kind of implementation, we see user adoption increase incredibly versus those who don't. Oftentimes, when migrating and not opting for a CIE, we have customers come back and ask for it months later to ensure their teams are using the tools correctly.
"During the implementation phase, IT folks logged 27,000 help desk tickets"
Now that is a whole lot of support tickets! How could this have been prevented? Again, it begins with the training and deployment of the new systems, services, and tools. I can't emphasize enough to take things slowly and adopt one shiny new toy at a time. Migrate your data and information in phases. Test, test, test and then test again before rolling new software out to an entire organization or even an entire department, depending on the size. Start with small groups. As a leader of an organization or department, it's important to get feedback from those actually using the new software. How they use it in their day to day is going to be vastly different than a VP or CEO or someone in another department. That said, as a leader be sure to get input and consistently check in for feedback. As a user, make your challenges known as early as possible to reduce the probability of others running into the same one. At the end of the day, this technology should increase the users' productivity, not become a burden so it's important to communicate both challenges (and successes) to share with others.
"The new software/tool/etc allows multiple organizations/people to modify information you've already input."
There might not be anything more frustrating than doing your work and having someone else completely override it, whether intentionally (no matter if it was good intentions) or accidentally. There's no good in having to do the same work twice, especially when it's taking up hours of your time. To avoid this, you need to make sure you have identity management implemented. Identity management determines whether a user has access to systems, but also sets the level of access and permissions a user has on a particular system. For instance, a user may be authorized to access a system but be restricted from some of its components. Another example is that your administrative assistant could have access to view certain documents or files, but only you can edit them. There becomes a chain of hierarchy and roles that allow for certain rights and access. Lastly, any modifications or changes should be backed up and stored somewhere in an archive that is easily referenceable to those who would need it.
Employees getting burnt out by technology is no surprise but shouldn't be so common. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are spending too much time trying to input data or find the right data, and not enough time with their patients, family or friends. With the work they are doing, if anyone deserves a work/life balance, it's them. We need to make sure we're equipping them with the right training, the right deployment schedule, the right resources and support throughout the technology adoption. This could all start with building out the right technology roadmap. A technology roadmap or an IT roadmap can look one year or even three years ahead to plan for the adoption of new infrastructure, systems, and technologies. It outlines budget, timeline, adoption phases and more. Having this all outlined in paper and agreed upon by leadership helps to ensure success in the long run.
While in the short-term, there will be many headaches, especially for generations who didn't grow up using email, AOL Instant Messenger or Facebook. However, aren't most things challenging when we first start them? Change is never easy - it's not supposed to be. We need change. We thrive on change. Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results." Without acceptance for change, there cannot be growth. What would happen if we always gave up when things were hard?
It comes down to focusing on the long game. Create a deployment schedule. Implement training. Have multiple training sessions. Roll out things in small doses. Just like some doctors have to wean some patients off medication, they need to be slowly introduced onto technology and increase their technology dosage. Little by little, increase the functionality, increase the availability of new software and they can more easily adapt.
Lastly, I'd like to end on a positive note. Instead of looking at all the negative that these technological advancements may be bringing to the world of healthcare, let's look at positives: You can now remotely check vital signs of a patient recovering from surgery who's still at the hospital while you're on the go.
- You can pull up medical history including a list of medications in a few clicks
- Computerization allows clinicians to help patients in ways that hadn’t been possible before.
- In one project, doctors are able to scan records to identify people who have been on opioids for more than three months, in order to provide outreach and reduce the risk of overdose.
- Another effort has begun to identify patients who have been diagnosed with high-risk diseases like cancer but haven’t received prompt treatment. The ability to adjust protocols electronically has let their team roll out changes far faster as new clinical evidence comes in. And the ability to pull up records from all hospitals that use the same software is driving real improvements in care.
Technology is a mighty powerful thing, but technology is empowered by people. Make sure you're empowering your people to leverage the right technologies and offering the right resources to digitally transform your business, leading to growth and success.