Last week I had a rare healthcare experience – something that I had only read about in blogs and on Twitter – a physician showed me what he was entering into him EHR while I sat beside him in the exam room! I’m not ashamed to admit that my first thought was “I can’t believe this is really happening”.
The doctor must have noticed how I quickly moved my seat closer to the large monitors because he chuckled and asked me: “How long have you been in healthcare?”. After sharing a laugh he went on to say “It’s rare that patients take a keen interest in what I’m keying into the system. It’s usually other healthcare people that want to see what’s going on. Are you a nurse or a physician?”
When I told him I was in Healthcare IT field he smiled and said “Ah that would have been my third guess.”
For the next 20 min he would type a line of notes, point to the screen and then share his reasoning with me. I asked him questions on clinical terms that I did not understand, at which point he would bring up a resource that had a definition. If he didn’t have a ready resource, he explained it as best he could and then encouraged me to look it up on a trusted site like Mayo Clinic’s.
Near the end of the appointment, the doctor asked me if I was involved with EHRs. When I asked him why, he said the most intriguing thing – “because it’s clear to me that the people who design EHRs (a) have never actually seen a patient in an exam room – it’s ridiculous how awful the screens are and (b) never thought that one day doctors would sit beside patients to let them see what they are entering.”
The latter statement has been churning through my mind ever since.
There is little doubt that the majority of EHRs are less-than-well-designed. Physicians everywhere complain about the amount of clicking required to navigate their EHRs and the number of fields they have to enter. The prevailing opinion is to improve EHRs by getting closer to physicians and actually studying how they really conduct a patient visit. This will certainly yield positive results.
But what if we designed an EHR that was meant to be displayed on a big screen? One that had screens that the patients would see as the doctor entered his or her notes? I believe that designing for this type of usage would result in a more significant improvement in usability and have a more positive impact on patient experience than building EHRs based on better observation of physician workflow.
Consider the phenomenon of open kitchens in the restaurant industry. For diners, being able to watch the kitchen staff prepare meals helps to pass the time while waiting for your order. It also allows the diner to see how talented the chefs are – because they can see them working. For staff, an open kitchen often means that the restaurant has put a lot of thought into optimizing food prep workflow. After all, no one would choose a layout that had staff constantly bumping into each other in full view of diners.
If a company designed an EHR that could be shared with patients, they would not only improve the interface for physicians, but they would also provide a means for that physician to improve the overall patient experience.
I hope that more physicians adopt the practice of sharing their EHR screens with patients during a visit. Doing so will immediately improve patient experience and will push vendors to improve their solutions at a far greater pace.