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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 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.

The Doctor’s Best Use of the Tablet

Posted on August 27, 2013 I Written By

Dr. Michael J. Koriwchak received his medical degree from Duke University School of Medicine in 1988. He completed both his Internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Koriwchak continued at Vanderbilt for a fellowship in Laryngology and Care of the Professional Voice. He is board certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. After training Dr. Koriwchak moved to Atlanta in 1995 to become one of the original physicians in Ear, Nose and Throat of Georgia. He has built a thriving practice in Laryngology, Care of the Professional Voice, Thyroid/Parathyroid Surgery, Endoscopic Sinus Surgery and General Otolaryngology. A singer himself, many of his patients are people who depend on their voice for their careers, including some well-known entertainers. Dr. Koriwchak has also performed thousands of thyroid, parathyroid and head and neck cancer operations. Dr. Koriwchak has been working with information technology since 1977. While an undergraduate at Bucknell University he taught a computer-programming course. In medical school he wrote his own software for his laboratory research. In the 1990’s he adapted generic forms software to create one the first electronic prescription applications. Soon afterward he wrote his own chart note templates using visual BASIC script. In 2003 he became the physician champion for ENT of Georgia’s EMR implementation project. This included not only design and implementation strategy but also writing code. In 2008 the EMR implementation earned the e-Technology award from the Medical Association of Georgia. With 7 years EMR experience, 18 years in private medical practice and over 35 years of IT experience, Dr. Koriwchak seeks opportunities to merge the information technology and medical communities, bringing information technology to health care.

I recently reviewed the Epocrates 2013 Mobile Trends report.  The study has a somewhat unusual participant profile, consisting only of primary care, 3 medical specialties and no surgical specialties; nonetheless the observations are probably close to the mark and are consistent with my experience with my first tablet a couple of years ago.

I purchased an iPad within a couple of months of the introduction of the first model thinking it was perfect for EMR use in my office.  I abandoned it after a couple of months when I discovered several shortcomings.  First, the first iPad was too heavy to hold by the edge and had to be held by a fully supinated hand (totally flat palm facing up).  Try that for 5 minutes and see how your forearm feels.  The first iPad was also too big to put in a physician’s white coat pocket.  And the screen resolution of the first iPad models was not good enough to display a busy EMR screen.   But the biggest drawback was that the early remote desktop apps did not work very well.

The iPad mini addresses all four of these issues.   The Mini is small enough to fit in a white coat pocket with the standard magnetic cover in place.  It is easily and comfortably held by its edge.  It needs a Retina screen badly but the display is better than the original iPad and is (barely) adequate for my 50-year-old eyes to see.   And remote desktop apps have come a long way.  It appears that similar advances have been made in tablets from other manufacturers as well.

I was therefore surprised to learn from the Epocrates study that although a majority of providers (53%) use tablets for patient care related activities, only a small portion (2%) use tablets for actual patient care record keeping in an EMR.  So I thought it would be interesting to outline my current methods of using a tablet that put me in the 2% category as well as the 53%:


  • Entering data into my EMR via a Remote Desktop app.  There are important lessons here.  Don’t expect to stick a tablet in the physician’s hand and have it work like magic.  Our office workflow is designed to optimize the physician / tablet combination.  I use the tablet for only 2 data fields in EMR:  assessment and coding (CPT and ICD).  The office staff enters all the other parts of the note and initiates treatment workflow through the EMR at the physician’s direction.  After the patient is seen I review all parts of the note (on a laptop or desktop), make additions / corrections, and sign it.
  • Cloud based voice-to-text.  This takes the tablet from merely useful to spectacular. There are 3 characteristics of Apple’s built-in cloud-based speech recognition that make it comparable to the Dragon software I have used in various forms for over 10 years:  1.  It is embedded seamlessly into the soft keyboard, 2.  An inexpensive external microphone plugged into the headphone /microphone jack raises transcription accuracy tremendously, and 3.  It works well with Remote Desktop, eliminating the need for a “dictation box” or other similar workaround.  These attributes make up for its most serious drawback, the lack of a medical (or at least customizable) vocabulary.  At the moment I have the right people talking to each other to address that problem.
  • Hospital EMR.  Our hospital is still in the implementation phase of a new Cerner system.  I am still learning the system myself but my initial experience using the system on my tablet using Citrix Receiver has been very positive.
  • Patient education.  LUMA, a product of Eyemaginations, is a very nice product for showing surgical patients the complex head and neck anatomy of their diagnosis and/or proposed surgical procedure.  There are both online and iPad versions available.  I can switch back and forth between EMR and LUMA without losing the Remote Desktop connection.
  • Medical imaging.  I can’t load an image disk directly onto my tablet but I can load it onto my desktop and take a photo with my tablet to review relevant images with patients.  I have tinkered with some apps that allow me to draw on the image to help educate patients.  Still looking for a way to conveniently reduce the file size to facilitate copy-pasting into EMR notes.
  • Literature searches in the exam room.  Not glamorous but helpful, most commonly to review medication side effects.


I think that is a pretty complete use of the tablet for the physician.  No doubt new uses will appear before long.