Technology gets a bad rap in healthcare. A lot of that is earned.
Doctors in ambulatory care spend roughly two hours on EHR and desk work for every hour of patient care – and that’s before they spend another one-to-two hours at home.i Nurses working in an inpatient hospital spend about a third of their time using technology.ii
When technology adds complexity to the care environment, it contributes to an increase in clinicians’ risk for cognitive overload and, ultimately, burnout.iii
At Vocera, we believe strongly in the potential for technology to unleash human potential, provided that leaders who select and implement technology intentionally select for solutions that promise a positive human impact.iv
Positive “human impact” is the extent to which a technology enhances human connection and compassion, expands human capacity, improves communication, relieves cognitive burden, and allows team members to connect to purpose.
Healthcare Technology Selection and Implementation Processes Have a Humanity Deficit
To find out whether, when, and how healthcare executives consider human impact when choosing and implementing new technologies, we conducted an online survey of 45 executives responsible for influencing technology decisions. The survey was conducted during February and March of 2019.
Fewer than one in five of our survey respondents said their organization has a set of human-centered criteria for assessing and implementing technology.
When we asked respondents how critical factors such as price, integration, and ease of use are in their organizations’ technology selection process, price and technical factors ranked well above human impact factors (see Figure 1). For example, less than a third indicated that solutions that enable clinicians to spend time caring for patients are critical, while more than half said technical fit is a must-have.
Healthcare organizations are making some up-front investments in fostering successful technology deployments (see Figure 2). Our respondents told us that user training and hands-on technical support are nearly universal, and almost two-thirds of organizations ‘always’ or ‘usually’ create opportunities for localization or customization of technology-based solutions.
Yet, many organizations are still missing key opportunities to create dialog with and support end-users during the implementation phase:
Only 37% always or usually provide change management support.
Only 32% always or usually involve frontline teams in defining the success metrics for tech solutions.
Only 21% always or usually solicit patient and family perspectives.
When we delved into which specific aspects of human impact healthcare technology decision makers pay attention to most, respondents indicated that only three elements are usually or always on their priority list at least 50% of the time (see Figure 3):
Helping teams manage complex information
Supporting a safe working environment
Helping with resource allocation
Factors such as whether solutions help involve patients in their own care or boost team morale are always or usually considered by less than a quarter of respondents. Given the current challenge with excessive administrative tasks, burnout, and lack of time for clinicians to connect meaningfully with patients, it will be ever more critical for technology decision makers to consider the human impact when selecting and implementing technology.
Humanity Needs a Seat at the Technology Table
Forward-thinking healthcare executives recognize that to be sustainable and support healthcare’s healing mission, technology needs to be integrated with people and processes in a way that enhances humanity. To advance that purpose, we convened twenty senior healthcare executives at NewYork-Presbyterian to co-create a human-centered framework for technology selection and deployment that aligns technical requirements with human impact considerations to create sustainable value.
This framework puts human impact criteria on par with cost and technical priorities and broadens how vendors and healthcare leaders think about ‘value.’ We also outline human-centered practices for governance, change management, support, and measurement for technology implementation in the clinical environment.
As one survey participant said, “Technology should be the tail and not the dog. It should enable, empower, and augment successful care and caring.”
Looking forward, it is our shared vision that technology transcend technical requirements to expand human capacity and connection across healthcare. For now, we will continue to validate and refine the frameworks by partnering with leaders from across our Experience Innovation Network membership who will incorporate these ideas into their existing technology planning and selection processes.
If your organization is interested in getting involved with our Humanity and Technology Council or learning more about our frameworks, please reach out to RJ Salus, Executive Director, Experience Innovation Network at firstname.lastname@example.org.
i Sinsky C, Colligan L, Li L, Prgomet M, Reynolds S, Goeders L, et al. Allocation of Physician Time in Ambulatory Practice: A Time and Motion Study in 4 Specialties. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 6 September 2016]165:753–760. doi: 10.7326/M16-0961
ii A Higgins, Linda W., Shovel, Judith A., Bilderback, Andrew L., Lorenz, Holly L., Martin, Susan C., Rogers, Debra J., Minnier, Tamra E., Hospital Nurses' Work Activity in a Technology-Rich Environment: A Triangulated Quality Improvement Assessment, Journal of Nursing Care Quality 2017, doi: 10.1097/NCQ.0000000000000237
iv Patel, V. L., & Kannampallil, T. G. (2014). Human factors and health information technology: current challenges and future directions. Yearbook of medical informatics, 9(1), 58–66. doi:10.15265/IY-2014-0005
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