Impact of Smart Technology in Healthcare. How has it Changed the Workplace

Technological advancements have impacted all major sectors, especially healthcare. Work practices have changed with new technological innovations. Healthcare establishments are finding that they can stay competitive and carry out their tasks more efficiently and quickly only if they implement these new technologies which improve knowledge and skills. However, with the implementation of new technologies, healthcare providers are spending more time at work and their workload seems to have increased. For instance, in the recent Great New Zealand Employment Survey 2013, over 63% of total respondents confirmed that new technology like smartphones is contributing to excess workload – they end up spending more time on the job and are expected to be available after their normal working hours. Here are the main technological developments that are making physicians busier than they once were:

Electronic Health Records (EHR): EHRs undoubtedly offer improved communication with patients and between providers, allow better tracking of guideline compliance and disease markers, and better access to patient data. All this is allowing physicians to improve the quality of care. However, many physicians have described data entry into the current EHRs as time-consuming and difficult. They have to spend more time at their desks than before now that EHR is here. Hopefully with better guidance.

Smartphones and Apps: Smartphones are helping physicians reach out to their patients better. As instant access to patient information helps them perform their jobs more efficiently, most doctors have tablets and smartphones. These mobile devices allow them to communicate via email, browse the Web to look up a drug dose or differential diagnosis list, and use specific apps. However, an article published in May 2013 in the Review of Ophthamology reports that doctors are much busier than doctors of previous generations as they can never “disconnect from the grid”. They are connected with their smartphones and computers and feel like they are always on call. This is resulting in physician burnout as they cannot prevent work issues from taking up even leisure time.

Speech recognition software: Speech recognition software has made documentation of patient data easier for physicians. This software analyzes an incoming stream of sound and deciphers the sounds as commands and dictation. Back-end speech recognition technology automatically prepares an initial draft of a report in realt-time. According to a Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) report, the adoption rate of speech recognition software rose from 21% to 47% during 2009 to 2013. The latest dictation tools include OS X Maverick’s Built-in-tool from Apple and Dragon NaturallySpeaking tool from Nuance communications. However, both the tools make mistakes in data, with the extent of errors greater in Mavericks’s built-in dictation tool. This means that the physician needs to be vigilant to avoid mistakes even with these high-tech tools.

Using Cisco telepresence or Skype physicians can communicate with their peers and colleagues anywhere in the world. Telepresence robots offer a virtual experience of your office while you are at home and Mezzanine uses multiple screens and spatial user interfaces to help people collaborate from different locations. Google Glass brings the computer display to your body!

Outsourcing is Growing

With the nature of work practices changing in healthcare, it is little wonder that more providers are looking to outsourcing to help with their non-core tasks. They are routinely assigning tasks such as medical transcription, medical billing and coding, data entry, website development and design, and much more to third party providers who get these jobs done efficiently in offshore locations. This allows them to benefit from the use of the latest technology without having to invest in it as well as get their tasks performed in customized turnaround time.