Health Tech

Healthcare IT Has Failed Providers, but It’s Not Too Late to Redeem Ourselves


It’s no secret that healthcare providers are among the hardest working of all professionals – their skill and intelligence are matched only by their creativity and commitment to their patients. But the healthcare IT sector, while it has made an effort to assist, has failed to support our providers – doctors, nurses and caregivers – with technology solutions that meet the increasing demands for better, faster, more efficient patient healthcare delivery. Instead, we have cast these providers in the dark, forcing them to function blindly, devoid of necessary information, pushing many of them to the brink of what they can withstand as professionals, pushing them to burnout.

The thing about providers is that, in addition to being hardworking, dedicated, and outstanding professionals, they are incredibly creative and innovative, willing to embrace new technologies and workflows – as long as they can add value to their patients. So how about we – the broader healthcare IT solutions vendor community – focus on delivering technologies that don’t force them to compromise care and efficiency for the sake of security, or compliance and access to data?

We need to do so to address an industry crisis. Physician burnout is on the rise, and it’s increasingly clear that overworked providers have reached the breaking point. They spend valuable minutes battling technology on virtual desktops, mobile devices, biomedical equipment, and clinical SaaS applications – typing in usernames and passwords, loading various apps, and more. All the while, standing beside a patient that is desperately seeking their assistance.

Right now, nearly one-half of all physicians (44 percent) report having feelings of burnout (according to Medscape‘s 2019 National Physicians Burnout & Depression Report). While these numbers should alarm everyone, what the healthcare IT industry should be especially concerned about is that a leading cause of this physician burnout are tools that hinder provider productivity. Instead of simplifying work for doctors and nurses, technology tools are having the opposite effect. Isn’t technology supposed to make things easier?

As a healthcare IT industry, this should be cause for a major reckoning. We must admit the hard truth: we – the vendor community – screwed up.

It’s easy to see where we went wrong. Instead of delivering technologies that fit seamlessly into provider workflows, our industry delivered solutions that primarily focused on improving revenue cycle systems. This was valuable to the finance team – we made the CFO happy, anyway – and helped assure the financial viability of health systems. Unquestionably delivering on financial viability is a necessary objective in our payer-based system, yet we really missed the mark – we underdelivered for doctors and nurses. We forced providers to work with new technologies that did not save them time and – what’s worse – actually slowed them down. In doing so, we committed the cardinal sin of healthcare – we forced providers to spend valuable time on technology that should have been spent on patient care.

We also erred in how we digitized data. Healthcare IT helped health systems move from file folders to digital patient records, but not in a way that allows providers to seamlessly hunt through data and extract value. In fact, we made things more difficult by introducing the burden of duplicate records, which can cause unnecessary and costly duplicate testing, ineffective treatments, unintended medication interactions, and inappropriate care that can harm patients. 

We didn’t look beyond the four walls of the hospital. Today, providers are spending more time working outside acute care environments. They’re in clinics, they’re accessing their EHRs from home, and they’re prescribing opioids while on vacation. We didn’t do our best to set them up for success while working across various locations and endpoints. 

And these are just a few examples of how we’ve failed providers with technology. Like any good doctor, we have diagnosed what ails the patient (and what caused these ills). Now we must ask:  how do we fix it? It seems it’s so bad, we have to rip it up and start all over again. But what if we didn’t? If healthcare IT is responsible for forcing providers to function blindly, isn’t there a way we can shine a light on a solution?

Technology can truly offer value — modern biometrics, low-energy Bluetooth, proximity awareness, virtual desktops, and mobile solutions all show great promise for enhancing clinical workflows and productivity. 

We need to commit to raising the bar on technology to provide that value and simplify the lives of providers. What if we could automatically identify patients using a high trust, high quality digital identity? Wouldn’t that make everything easier? What if we could make EHRs accessible from everywhere on any device? Now there’s an idea!

It’s up to us, healthcare IT. Let’s get out there and innovate for the sake of our providers.

Gus Malezis is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Imprivata. Gus is widely recognized as a visionary leader in the information technology security industry where he brings more than 30 years of experience driving innovation and growth while building market leading organizations.

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4 replies »

  1. Agree with Bobby Gladd. So here ya go:

    Substantial investment needs to be made in user optimization. So many of these already troubled systems are rolled out poorly. Then, the now nearly broke organization has little left to spend on improvements, support, etc. That pattern has to stop. Technology only improves when you update, build it to the user, train, etc.

    Next, we need to get rid of the absurd and useless documentation requirements reinforced by legacy establishment like the AMA and CMS. Documentation needs to be distilled down to what matters instead of ceremonial garbage like a complete review of systems.

    Next, stop using clinical practices like some experimental toilet for pet projects. That means: MU, vacuous QI, and every other ONC/CMS fetish that drove EMR design into failure. The patient, and subsequently, the profession need to be making these calls…not some half baked DINO or bureaucrat occupying office space.

    The vendors need to shape up too, but are frequently hamstrung by irresponsible regulation, once again, coming right out of CMS. The silence of our “medical societies” on this issue is sad and pathetic.

  2. Our struggle(s) with the EHR call to mind the story of the Blind Man and the Elephant. Each of us, depending on our role, perceives a part of it, but no clinical person perceives the whole.

    As I have written before, what business invests mid-seven figures in a product with no return on investment? None, is the answer.

    So, just what IS the ROI? Is it interconnected records for faster and better patient care? No. Is it better, more accurate (truthful) notes? Everyone knows that’s not true. Is it (other than simulated) quality? Don’t be ridiculous.

    What it is is organized upcoding, payment farming, and rent seeking, and that’s all it is. Our dissatisfaction with it grows, while the purchasers are very content with their investment.

    That fact alone should tell you what you need to know.

  3. “how do we fix it?”

    I was hoping for some specifics. We’ve been hearing this litany of complaints and vague calls for reform for more than a decade.

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