In Healthcare every second counts: Three reasons why physicians are not spending enough time delivering care

Nicole LeBlanc
Mar 15, 2013

Three Boston area physicians, Dr. Stephen Parpos, Dr. Sara LeFleur and Dr. Alden Landry, joined us for our annual company meeting this past month to discuss IT challenges in healthcare. Moderated by our own Sean Kelly, the panel discussed issues with EMR access, communication challenges and the value of IT in the healthcare space. But in a field where every second counts, any process that slows or disrupts patient care will not do.

Today, doctors are unable to spend enough of their on-call time with patients. Dr. Parpos, a cardiologist affiliated with Newton Wellesley Hospital, said that “over 50% of [his] time is spent entering and modulating data in front of a computer screen.” This figure may seem high but this is not far from the norm in healthcare. Every minute counts when it comes to treating a patient, so it’s important that unnecessary time isn’t spent navigating technology systems which detracts from patient care .

The first and perhaps most apparent reason for wasted time in a hospital is the number of applications physicians need to open for every patient, as well as the usernames and passwords that grant them access to these applications. For Dr. Parpos’, seven applications is the standard number he has to open at his station every morning, followed by at least three applications in each room. These apps include in and out patient EMRs, and e-prescribing platforms.

The multiple application problem can be solved with SSO technology, but the programs’ ability to talk to each other is the next complication. Many of these systems are not designed with interoperability built in which makes it hard for care providers to retrieve information and cross reference. This means doctors often waste time as they have to look at different portals, each structured in a unique way, in order to piece together the patients history and relevant information. Dr. Sara LaFleur, an anesthesiologist at Cambridge Health Alliance and Mass General , shared with us that she “had to designate a representative to start logging into systems and calling information out to [her]” in each room because this became such a problem.

This situation is even harder for Dr. Alden Landry. “It’s really frustrating to me as an emergency room physician when everything is now, now, now and I have a delay in interaction with technology,” he said. In that type of setting, even a thirty second delay can have a huge impact on patient care.

Text messaging has become the standard method of communication but it poses unique challenges for healthcare because of security and privacy regulations. We text with our friends, our kids, our colleagues - and doctors are no different. They want the same convenience of texting at work that they have become accustomed to in all other aspects of their lives. They also want to do the right thing when it comes to their patients’ security and privacy, but efficient, high quality care trumps everything for doctors. Traditional ways of sharing this type of information, paging for a conversation for instance, are way too slow. So physicians are using their smartphones to text and send pictures. As the BYOD trend gains more and more followers each day, hospitals are trying to find a way to manage all these unencrypted devices on their network and often times, this management means simply restricting the use of these devices for fear of a security breach. But the allure of this simple and effective solution still has docs using it, despite the possibility of a 1.5 million dollar fine.

Until there is a complete solution to secure texting and picture messaging, complete with Dr. Parpos’ requests of priority message screening, and the ability to turn it off when not on-call, this will continue to impede physician productivity.  

If you’d like to learn more about speaker insights from our company meeting, make sure to check out the three takeaways from Dr. John Halamka’s speech on the CIO’s evolving role.