LAS VEGAS – Ronald Schaefer, MD, a hospitalist with Hawaii Pacific Health who also works on creating digital templates for his hospital, can’t input hemoglobin A1c levels from three different labs into his electronic medical records (EMR) system the same way.
Hospitalist George Dimitriou, MD, FHM, who splits his time at Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh between clinical work and medical informatics, worries there are so many fields in his EMR that physicians can get distracted.
Yevgeniy “Eugene” Gitelman, MD, a clinical informatics manager at the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania Health in Philadelphia, wonders how good any systems can be with the privacy concerns related to HIPAA.
This was the nexus of IT and HM17, a time when hospitalists said they are stymied and frustrated by continuing issues of interoperability, functionality, and access. The meeting highlighted new smartphone and tablet applications, as well as medical devices available to hospitalists, but tech-focused physicians say the biggest issue remains the day-to-day workings of EMR.
“If you build something really good, people will use it. If you build something that makes their documentation process a lot easier and a lot faster and a lot better, they’ll use it,” said Dr. Schaefer. “The tools aren’t there yet. I don’t think the technology is mature enough.”
If the tech hasn’t yet come of full age, the concerns surely have. SHM unveiled a white paper at HM17 that codified hospitalists’ worries about the current state of IT. The report, “Hospitalist Perspectives on Electronic Medical Records,” found that “a staggering” 85% of providers said they spend more time interacting with their inpatient EMR than their actual inpatients.
Rupesh Prasad, MD, MPH, SFHM, chair of SHM’s Health IT Committee, says the report is meant to foster discussion about the issues surrounding EMRs. The data points, generated from 462 respondents, are stark. Just 40% said they were happy with their EMR. Some 52% would change vendors if they could. One-quarter of respondents would revert to using paper if given the option.
“By sharing these results, we hope to raise awareness of the unacceptable performance of existing systems,” the report states. “This continues to contribute to our slower than desired improvement in quality and safety, as well as increasing provider frustration. We strongly believe that we need a renewed focus on initial goals of technology adoption in health care.”
Dr. Prasad said that he hopes hospitalists heed that call to action and use the report in discussions with various stakeholders, including vendors, public policy officials, and their own bosses.
“We want to give hospitalists ammunition to go back to their systems and talk to their administrators to see if they can influence [it],” he said.
Dr. Prasad is pleased that the society is sensitive to the issues surrounding technology. He encourages hospitalists to actively participate in HMX, SHM’s online portal to discuss health IT issues and crowd-source potential solutions. Patrick Vulgamore, MPH, SHM’s director of governance and practice management, said the society is formulating a potential special-interest working group to further seek to solve problems.
Hospitalists were also urged to apply for American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) certification in clinical informatics. Physicians can grandfather into eligibility via the “practice pathway” through the end of the year, if they’ve been working in informatics professionally for at least 25% of their time during any three of the previous five years. Next year, only graduates of two-year Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education–accredited fellowships will be board eligible.
“As end users of technology, we understand the problems better than anybody else,” Dr. Prasad said. “Obviously, the next step would be try to solve the problems. And what better way then to get involved and become experts in what you do?”
While much of the meeting’s tech talk was frustration, both former National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, and HM Dean Robert Wachter, MD, MHM, forecast a future when artificial intelligence and intuitive computers work alongside physicians. Imagine the user-friendliness of Apple’s Siri or Google’s Alexa married to the existing functionalities provided by firms such as Epic or Cerner.
But that’s years away, and hospitalists like Dr. Dimitriou want help now.
“The speed of medicine, the speed of what’s happening in real time, is still faster than what our electronic tools seem to be able to keep up with,” he said. “There are encouraging signs that we’ve definitely moved in the right direction. We’ve come a long way … but again, the speed at which things are moving? We aren’t keeping up. We’ve got to do more.”