Guest Column | January 18, 2018

Prediction: Forgotten Physicians Continue To Struggle In 2018

By Jay Anders, Medicomp Systems

Doctor Purge UnitedHealth

The future is bright for health IT in 2018 - unless you’re one of the many physicians who have grown deeply disillusioned with ever-changing healthcare policies, unfriendly technology, and an overwhelming number of administrative tasks – all of which interfere with the ability of clinicians to focus on the delivery of medicine.

In fact, it’s unlikely that the 2018 forecast includes much relief for physicians in the way of technologies that better address the needs of physicians. In reality, it’s likely that physicians will remain forgotten as health systems and vendors keep their focus on revenue-enhancing activities.

As we move into the New Year, I predict that these major health IT-related themes will continue to impact physicians.

  1. Heavy Administrative Burdens

Physicians are frustrated with the administrative burdens of practicing medicine. Rather than focusing strictly on patient care – and performing the tasks they trained for and love – physicians must regularly adjust workflows to address ever-changing regulatory and reimbursement requirements.

Consider MACRA, which includes requirements for 273 possible clinical quality measures (CQMs), most of which are best done at the point of care. Physicians must measure and track CQMs, yet few have access to systems that provide CQM integration at the point of care and within physician workflows. Thus, in order to achieve MACRA compliance and avoid financial penalties, physicians must navigate inefficient workflows that hinder productivity.

Don’t look for a quick fix that diminishes administrative burdens, or major legislation that streamlines existing healthcare policies and regulations. Instead, we’ll continue to see ongoing debates about Obamacare/Trumpcare/Ryancare/Senatecare and will lack clarity about which political parties will most likely control Congress over the next few years.

  1. Slowing Productivity And A Lack Of Tools

Physicians lack productivity-enhancing tools, despite being asked to do increasingly more to satisfy quality and reimbursement initiatives. Every new requirement involves a new task that is likely disconnected from everything else in existing clinical workflows. Physician frustration continues to build as clinicians spend more time figuring out how to fulfill reporting requirements and less time delivering patient care.

Rather than provide physicians with clinically-focused solutions that support clinical thought processes at the point of care, more and more health systems are requiring physicians to use large HIS platforms that were originally designed to track patients and facilitate billing and reimbursement. Meanwhile, clinicians struggle to glean insights from existing patient data for the delivery of better care.

  1. Physician Input Is The Game-Changer

Physicians are eager to share their knowledge - and their knowledge is power! Unfortunately, EHR companies too often fail to seek input from the very people they are building their systems for. User-friendly clinical interfaces that are pleasurable and efficient for physician end-users are an after-thought for vendors who instead focus on addressing regulatory requirements and providing revenue-enhancing features.

If EHR companies want to create clinical systems that doctors love and want to use, they must include physicians in every step of the process, including the design, building, and testing. After all, the physicians are the ones who know the required workflows, understand existing bottlenecks, and can identify which processes are critical to patient safety. Physicians can identify common clinician thought processes and understand why one workflow may be preferred over another. They understand what tasks are traditionally performed by a medical assistant, how long a particular procedure might take, and when and why a clinician cannot be looking at a computer screen. In short, a physician understands how other physicians see patients and practice medicine.

Physician collaboration can be a game-changer for vendors seeking to develop more innovative solutions that think and work like a physician. By co-creating systems that physicians want and need, the industry and frustrated physicians can begin to experience a transformation.

Health systems and health IT vendors have spent too many years overlooking the needs and desires of physician users. Rather than continuing to allow clinicians to struggle with inefficient systems that impair productivity, perhaps we should make 2018 the year that the industry fully embraces the knowledge and expertise that physicians can provide and delivers highly-usable solutions that help make physicians happier and more productive.

About The Author
Jay Anders, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of Medicomp Systems. Dr. Anders supports product development, serving as a representative and voice for the physician and healthcare community. Dr. Anders spearheads Medicomp's clinical advisory board, working closely with doctors and nurses to ensure that all Medicomp products are developed based on user needs and preferences to enhance usability.