Frontline workers say they spend more time on EHRs than patient care
Although frontline health workers tend to be well-connected, they spend significant time fixing technical problems and attending to patient records – cutting into their time caring for patients themselves.
According to a report this week from IoT vendor SOTI, a third of respondents to a wide-ranging survey on frontline workers said their employers had introduced new systems and technologies to help cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, said the report, the clinicians struggled with connectivity, integration, glitches and system failures.
"The picture that emerges is of a system which, due to a lack of integration, is not fulfilling the potential of what is possible with existing devices and platforms," wrote report authors.
WHY IT MATTERS
For its report, SOTI interviewed 475 frontline clinicians, including nurses, homecare workers and other healthcare professionals in seven countries.
Although most respondents had access to at least one connected mobile device, nearly two-thirds said they experienced mobile device or system failure every week.
Respondents spent an average of five hours a week fixing technical problems, and more than half of their time was spent accessing and updating patient records.
Strikingly, more than half of respondents also said that using the technology their employer provides wastes time they could be spending with patients.
That adds up – particularly when the COVID-19 pandemic is straining health system resources.
Such inefficiency is compounded by a lack of seamless integration among systems: Some 70% of respondents said the online systems they use do not run on their mobile device, and more than a third said the information for any given patient was not in a single place.
"At best, this has the potential to waste time and make it more difficult to achieve the best possible outcome for every patient," authors wrote in the report. "At worst, not having the right information at hand, particularly in an emergency, could lead to a clinical error and inefficient care."
Staff also felt they had not received sufficient technology training, particularly where data security is concerned.
"While it is encouraging that so many frontline professionals in healthcare have access to technology, the picture that emerges is one of skill gaps and a lack of support," read the report.
THE LARGER TREND
The question of how best to implement a system of streamlined information sharing – especially given the increase in remote patient monitoring ushered in by the novel coronavirus crisis – is an open one.
Some hospitals have addressed the need for data integration with "smart" hospital rooms, layering information, insight and access to optimize clinical processes.
Still, throwing more technology at a problem isn't always the best solution. Nurses say that user-unfriendly systems can make burnout worse, thus compromising patient care.
“Unfortunately, IT has been cited multiple times as a reason for nurse burnout,” Suong Nguyen, RN, a critical care nurse at Virtua Health, told Healthcare IT News Features Editor Bill Siwicki.
ON THE RECORD
"It’s hard to see how frontline staff can be productive if many of them do not have the knowledge they need to use the devices their employer has given them," said Shash Anand, VP of product strategy at SOTI, in a statement. "And, without timely support, it is very hard for them to overcome this lack of knowledge and its consequences without detracting from the quality of care provided to patients."