Information is power, but sometimes it can be too much of a good thing. Information overload affects workers in every industry – this is particularly true for data-reliant and intensive industries like healthcare. And, it’s not getting any better – by 2020 the healthcare industry alone is estimated to have 25,000 petabytes of data – that’s equivalent to 500 billion four-drawer filing cabinets. With its complexity and breadth, and not least with its impact on our lives, healthcare has to be the poster child for how efficient management of data can improve productivity and help providers make better, more informed decisions.
A first trick, however, is getting at the relevant pieces of information. Today, a lot of manual work goes into accessing and cleaning up data that is siloed and unstructured. Too much information is still on paper, but even where it has been migrated to electronic medical records (EMR), practice management systems, or lab diagnostic systems, much of it is still unstructured. The majority of hospitals are finally implementing EMRs, and many of us are working to provide advanced analytics based on the information going online, but, at a recent Xerox healthcare client council meeting, several CIOs emphasized that there still remains a huge challenge in cleaning, standardizing, and integrating data before it can be used for decision making.
Fortunately, powerful methods are becoming available that can extract relevant events from physician narratives, intelligently aggregate data, customize information for clinicians based on context, and visualize information. For instance, in France, a number of hospitals are testing an emerging application based on Natural Language Processing technology developed at the Xerox Research Centre Europe in Grenoble, France. Researchers designed the solution to help prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections by finding, extracting, and combining key information in physician narratives distributed in medical records. As another example, our Midas+ Live product accesses and integrates information from diverse hospital systems and puts them on a single dashboard, multiple patients at a time, hugely simplifying a physician’s task to monitor all of his or her patients.
I’ve previously written about multitasking and work induced attention deficit disorder.
I’ve also written about the burden of having two workdays every 24 hours – one for meetings and one for email
Yesterday, I was sent a post from the Harvard Business Review that summarizes these issues very well.
It highlights the problem and a series of solutions.
Nearly half of employees report the overwhelming stress and burden of their current jobs, not based on the hours they work, but the volume of multitasking – too many simultaneous inputs in too little time. They’ve lost the sense of a beginning, middle, and an end to their day, their tasks and their projects. There is no work/life boundary.
As a case in point, I’m writing now while doing email and listening to a Harvard School of Public Health eHealth symposium. Am I being more productive or just doing a greater quantity of work with less quality?
The author of the post points to evidence that multi-tasking increases the time to finish a task by 25%. He also notes that our energy reserves are depleted by a constant state of post traumatic stress induced by our continuous connectivity.
He suggests three strategies:
1. Rather than multi-task, reduce meeting times to 45 minutes, leaving 15 minutes for email catchup and transition.
We’re all suffering from information overload. More projects with fewer staff on shorter timeframes mean more email, texts, blogs, online meetings, and phone calls.
We make more decisions and have more accountability than ever before. Regulatory complexity and the need for risk management has increased. We’re pressured to make decisions faster and there is less tolerance for mistakes. Making all those decisions in a high stakes environment like healthcare leads to decision fatigue, that numbness you feel at the end of an overloaded day when you decided what to spend, who to hire, and what to do, hundreds of times.
I believe decision fatigue is an escalating threat to our ability to manage the events of each day and keep balance in our lives.
When I think back on my early career as a leader, in the 1980’s, there was no email, no overnight shipping, and limited numbers of fax machines.
Issues were escalated by writing and mailing a letter. The time it took to compose, type, mail, and deliver a letter meant that many problems solved themselves. Since the effort to escalate was significant, many problems were never escalated.Continue reading…