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Need to create doctor-friendly technology is more important than ever


Experts urge developers to learn from the mistakes of EHRs

With the rollout of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), technology companies are already in the process of developing new software tools to help physicians record and report quality measures required by the law.


Related: Health IT creates lose-lose situation for physicians


But experts say developers need to learn from the mistakes made by electronic health record (EHR) designers and focus on creating user-friendly products or else risk contributing to the rising levels of physician burnout in the same way EHRs have done.

“Interest is high for digital tools, but the EHR experience shows the need to better understand physician motivations,” says Michael Tutty, Ph.D., group vice president, professional satisfaction & practice sustainability for the American Medical Association (AMA).

Tutty, along with Richard Deem, senior vice president of advocacy for AMA, presented their views on technology and its potential impact on how physicians will navigate MACRA at the HIMSS17 Conference in Orlando, Florida. Both emphasized the need for technology vendors to learn from EHR development mistakes and build on the positives.

He cited statistics that show a rising level of burnout among doctors, with 54% reporting at least one symptom of burnout in 2014, up from 46% in 2011. While there are many contributing factors, frustration with EHRs is one of the leading culprits, with doctors losing time and money because of poorly designed interfaces that don’t match their workflow or do not provide the patient information they need in an efficient manner.


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Tutty pointed out that for a technology to be successful, it needs to demonstrate how it makes doctors more efficient and fits within their existing technology systems, including linking to their EHR and securing the data flowing through it. Creating more technology that takes time away from providing quality care from patients is not what’s needed and can be avoided.

Next: Moving from fee-for-service to value-based care 


“Physicians want to be part of the decision-making process,” says Tutty, adding that developers that don’t involve doctors are bound to fail. Developers must also understand that the way a primary care doctor uses the system may be different from someone in billing, and that all users in a practice must be taken into consideration for a product to succeed.


More from HIMSS: How to eliminate EHR-based medical errors


He encouraged developers to aim not just for enhancing the patient experience, improving population health and reducing costs, but also to improve provider satisfaction.

“Moving from fee-for-service to value-based care requires new tools and data analytics,” says Tutty. “Those companies that provide all four aspects have a great chance to succeed.”

Training is also a vital aspect of the process, says Deem, who notes that it is often not adequately funded or given enough time.

Several physicians in the audience noted that training needed to be extensive, including having someone at their side as they navigated through it. Otherwise, the advanced functions can go unused and physicians may never see any efficiency gains.

“Anything that takes too much time and detracts from patients will lead to a lack of interest in the technology,” says Deem. “The message to developers: Don’t forget the doctors.”

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