Ways To Minimize Physicians’ Administrative Burdens

Posted on January 24, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

It’s hardly a secret that physicians are buckling under the weight of their administrative responsibilities. The question is, how do we lessen the load? A new article published on a site backed by technology vendor CDW offers some creative ways for doing so.

One suggestion the article makes is to have patients write and add notes to their personal medical charts.According to the piece, doctors at UCLA Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center will pilot “OurNotes,” a tool allowing patients to input medical data, in 2018. Patients will use the new tool to add information such as symptoms, emerging health issues and even goals for future visits. OurNotes is an outgrowth of the OpenNotes project, an initiative that encourages clinicians to share their notes with patients.

Will the OurNotes effort actually make things easier for physicians? Dr. John Mafi, assistant professor of medicine in the division of general internal medicine and health services research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, believes it can.

“If executed thoughtfully, OurNotes has the potential to reduce documentation demands on clinicians, while having both the patient and clinician focusing on what’s most important to the patient,” Dr. Mafi said in a statement about a research project on the OpenNotes approach. (Mafi was the lead author of a paper on the project’s results.)

Another option is using “remote scribe” services via Google Glass. Yes, you heard me right, Google Glass. Google is relaunching its smart glasses and it’s retooled its approach to serving the healthcare industry. The number of applications for Glass has crept up gradually as well, including an EMR accessible using the smart glasses from vendor DrChrono. DrChrono calls it the “wearable health record,” which is pretty nifty.

San Francisco-based clinical practice Dignity Health has been working with Google Glass startup Augmedix to access offsite scribes. Dignity Health vice president and CMIO Davin Lundquist told MobiHealthNews that after three years of using Glass this way, he’s cut down on time spent administrative tasks from 30% per day to 10% per day. Pretty impressive.

Yet another way for healthcare organizations to reduce adminsitrative overhead is, as always, making sure their EMR is properly configured and supports physician workflow. Of course, duh, but worth mentioning anyway for good measure.

As the CDW piece notes, one way to reduce the administrative time for physicians is to make sure EMRs are integrated with other systems effectively. Again, duh. But it never hurts to bear in mind that making it easy for physicians to search for information is critical. There’s no excuse for making physicians hunt for test results or patient histories, particularly in a crisis.

Of course, these approaches are just a beginning. As interesting as, say, the use of Google Glass is, it doesn’t seem like a mature technology at this point. OurNotes is at the pilot stage. And as we all know, optimizing EMRs for physician use is an endless task with no clear stopping point. I guess it’s still on us to come up with more options.