By Jenny Chin
Technology has recently found its way into everyone’s’ daily lives in the past decade, becoming ubiquitous in homes, malls, and various other areas. In hospitals, likewise, doctors and medical staff have partnered up with different types of technology in order to speed up the process of patient care with more precision. However, the costs of technology need to be further examined, as there could be a correlation between increased technology usage and decreased doctor and patient interaction. How does technology help doctors with their work, and do the benefits outweigh the flaws?
Electronic Health Records
One piece of technology that many hospitals have begun to implement is known as Electronic health records, which according to USF Health, “are the digital equivalent of paper records, or charts at a clinician’s office”. They contain information such as medical history, vital signs, progress notes, immunization dates, and other information specific to the patient. While some may worry that technology limits the abilities for doctors to engage with patients, electronic health records undermine these concerns because they also allow patients to input the data themselves and discuss it with their doctors. Once they move from hospital to hospital, their health records will also transition with them. In a 2014 Black Book Ranking report, “31% of practices have adopted an EHR”, since it helps doctors incorporate their workflow habits, serving as device that is more than just a basic note tracker. The potential risks that come alongside electronic health records arise from the developers of the technology. If they don’t regularly update their systems, doctors are at high risk of losing all patient data records once the system malfunctions
Real World Applications & Thoughts
Physician Kimberly Jong has worked at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation for the past two years, although she didn’t have the opportunity to witness the transition of her hospital from limited technology to full-reliance.
“Electronic health records and being able to prescribe medication through the computer I think overall makes my job easier,” Jong said.
Jong also said that she can complete tasks much more quickly, which is also beneficial to the patients themselves. For her, the malfunctioning of the computer systems isn’t an issue at hand, but the ending results would be detrimental once this hypothetical scenario turns into a reality. Jong advocates for electronic health records, because she explains that information is never lost as long as the computer system is good, the information is filed away in a logical and standardized way, and it enables physicians and staff to better coordinate care of the patients”. Jong has worked in other hospitals that used paper charts, and prefers the electronic version.
“It’s a pain reading the handwritings of other doctors, and even though I’m a doctor myself, I can’t handle the handwritings of my colleagues,” Jong said.
However, Jong certainly sees an underlying issues with electronic health records because it exactly aligns with what many others have been concerned about: the lack of patient interaction and the loss of connection between face-to-face communication.
“I think the downside is that the doctor can end up spending more time charting and looking at the computer than having personal interactions with the patient… it’s a balancing act,” Jong said.
Jong highlights a newly implemented technology in action and how it benefits both the doctors and the patients. Even though she hasn’t personally experienced it, her colleagues have told her about how it trumps these previous downsides that arise from electronic health records.
“At PAMF, many of the doctors are implementing Google glass system where they speak to the patient and someone in India listens in and transcribes the conversation,” Jong said. “Telemedicine is also becoming more popular. It’s a service where people can teleconference or skype with doctors and get treatment for whatever ails them without having to go into an office. I think this service would be very useful for patients with certain problems that don’t require a doctor to lay hands on them, like psychiatric disorders or simple rashes”.
What are the implications of this information for Monta Vista students? Many of us have aspirations of wanting to enter the healthcare fields, and as a young generation, we’ll have already been accustomed to integrating technology into our lives as we continue on in our work and careers. For those of us wanting to become a doctor, Jong recommends that students don’t forget what doctors really do: to interact and help patients improve their health. If we only help them by merely adhering to the guidelines of our job and fully immersing ourselves into how technology helps us, we’ll lose focus of the raw value of being able to have human interactions with patients and those around us. Even if technology initially helps those in hospitals with the diagnoses and other processes, it will warp these benefits away if doctors and medical staff no longer have meaningful interactions with their patients and each other. Hospitals should think and choose carefully about the systems they want to integrate in order to not only follow through with the goal of efficient and precise procedures, but most importantly, preserve all possibilities of increasing of human interactions and connections.