Reflecting on “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers”

This week, our class was asked to read the following article, “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers” by Atul Gawande, which discusses the adaptation of healthcare professionals transitioning to a more digitized system to perform care. When Epic, a highly popular electronic medical record software, started to become more prevalent in hospitals and other healthcare settings, the costs of deploying the system on such a widespread scale had to be considered, not only for patients and especially for the healthcare providers who had to learn how to properly use the system.

After reading the article, I thought about how much time my own healthcare providers spend documenting on their computers, because I honestly hadn’t really thought about it before. Most, if not all, of my providers do in fact take a decent amount of time before, during, and after my appointments to work on my medical record. So, it was really eye-opening to read about the various clinicians who take lots of time outside of their workday to learn and use the system, not only because of the number of patients whose information is stored, but also because of the amount of time it takes to become fully acclimated to the extremely versatile software. It must certainly become exhausting to lose more time outside of work, after already having obscenely long workweeks.

That being said, I think that the primary tension that caused the system to make the doctors’ lives harder is the sheer number of patients who need to see a physician, along with the amount of pressure to become proficient with the new system at the same time. Each healthcare provider already has an obligation to visit as many patients as possible. They barely have time as it is outside of each appointment for documentation. Adding another responsibility of being comfortable with the new electronic medical record software (which has a function for just about anything related to health documentation) is definitely a hefty task.

With all this in mind, I feel that the true customers of the system are both the patients and the clinicians. While Gregg Meyer from this article described the patients as the real customers (because the number of patients accessing their records far surpasses the number of providers maintaining the records), it is also imperative that the healthcare providers fully understand the system. While each patient can spend several minutes examining their record, each provider spends hours per day working with many different patients’ records. With this much time spent, I feel that it should be argued that in fact, the providers are the customers system.

I think that some of the lessons described from this article could really be applied to any organization that may be switching to a more digital setting. The cost of familiarizing everyone with the system, both in cost of time it takes and the financial burden of training, can become high. These should all be taken into consideration when digitizing a company.

My main concern with such high dependency on these electronic medical software lies in the risk of some sort of organizational shutdown, should the system fail at any time. Because there is always high traffic due to the massive demand, these sorts of risks should be kept in mind. This software is revolutionary to the development of quality healthcare, but ensuring that the organization as a whole can still be successful in the case of malfunctions is essential.

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