Here are three ways physicians can help ensure a pleasant in-room experience when introducing new technology at the point of care:
Limit electronic barriers.
Ideally, in-room digital technology should be invisible whenever possible to preserve the essence of the important interaction that happens during a patient visit. Clicks of all types need to be reduced (or eliminated), data flows from connected devices need to be automated and the user interface must be optimized for efficiency. If a computer interaction infringes on a critical patient interaction, then it needs to be reanalyzed.
Make data entry seamless.
Ordering tests needs to be completed with as few clicks as possible, allowing physicians to spend less time on data entry and focus more on the patient. Results from vital signs measurements should find their way automatically into the patient record. Data entry templates need to be painstakingly optimized to ensure the workflow is as efficient as possible.
These types of improvements can be synergistic with each other. When achieved in the collective, they will disproportionately increase satisfaction for providers and their patients. Often, when it comes to improving care interactions, too little attention is given to these quick wins (e.g., creating a single-order system for test acquisition or eliminating non-value add screen navigation problems).
Choose exam room equipment that is designed, or redesigned, with modern digital technologies in mind.
Because EHR technology impacts virtually every step in the care journey, the exam room layout needs to consider how EHR attributes can be optimized for workflow considerations. Computer carts or wall units should be selected to ensure that eye-to-eye contact can be maintained as much as possible during times of data entry. Major flaws, such as having the computer or keyboard positioned so that the provider faces away from the patient, need immediate correction.
Not only will these steps help physicians integrate proven technology that is currently available in the market, they will also help prepare the exam room for future technological advances. For example:
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have the potential to empower physicians with new tools to improve the in-room exam experience.
- Digital analytic tools have the potential to offer new insights into a patient’s health such as identifying subtle, but significant, clinical trends that alert physicians to emerging pathology.
- Other smart tools will provide augmented diagnostic capability based on social determinants of health and genomic data that personalizes therapeutic decisions with remarkable precision for each individual. An example of precision medicine would be understanding that a difficult-to-control asthmatic patient lives with a family of smokers, resides in an allergy-rich area of town and/or works in a dusty agricultural zone.
Advanced technologies such as these will continue to expand physicians’ ability to know and understand each patient as a unique individual. These tools will help physicians determine exactly what clinical plan will work for each patient while also eliminating distractions related to data entry or data transmission. Of course, this is only possible if physicians commit to integrating technology at the point of care to enhance the patient experience and the quality of care they deliver.
Tom Schwieterman, MD, practiced family medicine for 12 years before joining the team at Midmark. As vice president of clinical affairs and chief medical officer, he leads the company’s focus on innovative technology and new approaches that enrich experiences between physicians and their patients at the point of care.