Integration of data and technology innovation will be a key to better serving this sicker population, Dr. Wachter predicted. We need “to take much fuller advantage than we have so far of the fact that we are all dealing with digital records, and the decision support, the data analytics, the artificial intelligence that we get from our computer systems is pretty puny,” he said. “That is partly why physicians don’t love their computers so much. They spend huge amounts of time entering data into computers and don’t get much useful information out of it.”
Dr. Wachter also warned that too much data could have negative effects on the delivery of care.
“One of the challenges we face is continuing to stay alert, not turn our brains off, and become increasingly dependent on the computer to give us information,” he said. “How do we avoid the challenges we’ve already seen from things like alert and alarm fatigue as the computer becomes more robust as an information source? There is always the risk our computers are going to overwhelm us with too much information, and we are going to fall asleep at the switch. Or when the computer says something that really is not right for a patient, we will not be thinking clearly enough to catch it.”
Despite the looming challenges and industry consolidations that are expected, Dr. Wachter doesn’t believe there will be any shortage of demand for hospitalists.
“I think, in most circumstances, [hospitalists are a protected] profession given the complexity, the high variations, and the dependence that it still has on seeing the patient, talking to the patient, and having discussions with multiple consultants,” he said. “It’s a pretty hard thing to replace with technology. Overall, the job situation is pretty bright.”
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