Doctors enjoy seeing patients, and many clinicians consider the time they spend with their patients to be the best part of their day.
Unfortunately, for a multitude of reasons, doctors are unable to spend as much time as they would like directly interacting with patients. They can feel rushed to get to the next patient. Documentation, billing, and other paperwork takes up part of this time, and there is little that we can do about this. But what about some of the usual inefficiencies of the hospital, such as trying to locate a patient or trying contact other physicians (for instance, waiting by a phone after paging them, waiting for a callback).
Currently, more and more hospitals are adopting EMRs, and physicians are starting to embrace devices like the iPad, all with hopes that technology will optimize their time spent during the day.
Here are 7 ways that I think that technology could be used in the next few years to improve physician’s use of time in the hospital:
- After first arriving at the hospital in the morning, my patient list would come up in order of priority, similar to Gmail priority inbox. With this, I’m able to see the patients that may need my more immediate attention, because of abnormal vital signs, labs, or because the patient’s nurse flagged the patient. Throughout the day, my patient list would be continually updated and prioritized by the system, with different alerts letting me know changes in the patient status, when abnormal vs normal tests have returned, or when a consultant has seen my patient.
- I would be able to make a video call into the patient’s room as as I’m reviewing their chart. This way, if two or more patients may require more urgent attention, I’m able to visually triage where I’m going to go first. Speaking to them with the video phone, we could discuss the best time to visit in person, or get a sense if I should head to their room immediately. Also, I would be able to easily give them updates on test results quickly and easily throughout the day.
- Instead of carrying a pager, I’ll have a smart phone with a fully functional EMR that I can use (for times when I don’t have my iPad or a desktop computer in front of me). Instead of paging, text messages with callback numbers to click on would be preferred for non-urgent issues, as opposed to directly calling physicians throughout the day (which could interrupt time with patients). More urgent issues could be given a different alert on my phone, with direct calls reserved for true emergencies.
- If I have have any questions or want to discuss further while I’m reviewing notes from other physicians in the chart, I’m able to click on the name of the person that that wrote the note, bringing up a box that allows me to send a text message to their phone.
- When I’m with patients, I’m able to show them their imaging and lab results on the TV in their hospital room, using Airplay on my iPad.
- Patients have RFID tags on their wrist bands, which immediately update the EMR if they are somewhere else in the hospital, such as in radiology getting tests done, or just walking around the wards.
- When doing my daily notes with voice recognition software, the EMR recognizes the diagnosis and problems of the patient I’m working with, and automatically brings up a number of references that I’m able to click to review, if necessary. Also, physicians are able to easily attach links to relevant journal articles within notes, with highlighting of key points.