In most industries, automation leads to increased efficiency, even employee layoffs. In health care, it seems, the computer has created the need for an extra human in the exam room.
A Busy Doctor’s Right Hand, Ever Ready to Type (Jan 12, 2014)
Claims – often from both government and IT companies – that the technology would increase efficiency have now been refuted again and again. Instead, the systems lead to increased stress and workplace health problems. “Chronically exhausted and feeling enslaved to the computer”, Dr. Jennifer Sewing describes her situation.
”Electronic health records have become a disease in need of a cure,” NY Times concludes.
The somewhat paradoxical solution is to give doctors a personal scribe, to handle the systems. Nearly 10,000 scribes are said to be working in hospitals and medical practices around the US, with demand rising quickly.
The personal scribe or assistant feels like a life-saving solution for the burdened doctors. Dr. Sewing, a family medicine practitioner, “used to spend late nights at her computer finishing electronic patient charts”. Now, she can relax and get a good night’s sleep.
But is this really sustainable? Health care will then be faced with increasing costs for both supposedly time-saving technology and for more staff.
A change has got to come: More usable software – but also a huge reduction in the clerical, administrative load that, in fact, the systems have helped to produce.