Authored by: Ophir Ronen
Modern hospitals contain numerous digital healthcare tools with which to improve patient outcomes. One example is the vital signs monitoring systems that track patients’ heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation (among other things). These systems alert clinicians when a patient’s vital signs are abnormal. But there’s a catch: ALL of these systems generate high degrees of false positive alarms (80-99%) that don’t require any action from clinicians. Even worse, they heighten the monitored patient’s anxiety. So yes, patients are being constantly monitored, and hospitals are allegedly reducing the risk of adverse outcomes, but how are these digital healthcare tools affecting healthcare providers? Spoiler alert: they cause corrosive burnout.
Clinicians’ True Thoughts On Medical Technology
The introduction of digital technology into healthcare generated an influx of data and tools that are primarily focused on clinicians. While these solutions may improve patient outcomes when appropriately utilized, the enormous data flows, in most cases, create cognitive dissonance and overload for clinicians. Imagine trying to drive in rush hour traffic while listening to your child give a rundown of their school day as your favorite podcast streams on the car radio and text messages come in from your spouse on your phone. How many of those conversations/interactions will be retained after 15 minutes? Likely very few. And unfortunately, this is a daily situation many of us find ourselves in. Similarly, clinicians are overloaded with a barrage of alerts (many of which are false positives), messages, orders, figures, screens, and conversations delivered via medical ‘technologies’ meant to help them.
One study from Stanford Medicine surveyed 500 physicians and found that over 60% felt that electronic health records (EHRs) were not designed with the needs of clinicians in mind. Many complained of excessive data entry and difficulty navigating the systems, leading to increased burnout and dissatisfaction with their jobs.
A survey of nurses published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found similar results, with over 80% of respondents reporting that current medical technology was not designed to meet the needs of their work. Respondents reported that the technology often lacked user-friendly interfaces, was challenging to navigate and was not well-integrated with other systems.
These surveys suggest that there is a wide and growing gap between the needs of healthcare professionals and the design of current medical technology. One serious repercussion of this gap is the increased workload, anxiety, and burnout that medical technologies generate for the clinicians forced to use them.
Technology and Clinician Burnout
In recent years, the phrase ‘burnout’ has circulated within the professional world, but healthcare has been a focal point for this phenomenon, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Current studies estimate that over 60% of hospital staff members report burnout. This is not sustainable. Unfortunately, many hospital organizations are unable to recognize employee burnout because there are no objective tools to track employee health. If hospital administrations don’t know how their employees are doing, they miss the insidious burnout crisis circulating within their walls.
There are a number of causes of burnout. Consistently on the list of contributing factors to nurse burnout are understaffing, management support, stressful work environments, lack of training, and overly complex technologies. Rather than introducing technology that increases the burden on healthcare workers, why don’t we design technologies that explicitly focus on decreasing the burden and preventing burnout?
Improving Technology for Clinicians
Many hospitals use employee surveys to measure burnout, but they are often subjective and may be faulty due to reporting biases. Hospitals need consistent, reliable, data-driven, and objective mechanisms to track employee health. It’s time that technology companies shift their focus from decision-making tools touting artificial intelligence with big clinical claims to tools that fix the work environment for the most critical people on the front lines of healthcare: our nurses, doctors, assistants, and technicians.
While patients are clearly an essential consideration in developing new technology, it is crucial that healthcare professionals are also taken into account. This can be achieved through user-centered design approaches, in which healthcare professionals are actively involved in the design process, and user experience testing is conducted to ensure that technology is easy to use and meets the needs of the people who will be using it. Medical employees are exhausted and overworked, and we’re not doing enough to make their lives easier. They don’t want more data and tools; they want accurate solutions, enhanced experiences, improved outcomes, and–most of all–the recognition that they are overworked and overburdened.
CalmWave understands the importance of employee health, so we’ve created an Operations Health Platform that measures how each clinician is doing using the data that already exists on the hospital network. Using vital signs data from patients alongside intervention data and other available sources, CalmWave generates Operations Health scores for every nurse, every unit, and every hospital. Gone are the days of subjective employee surveys or outright ignorance of the health of our medical personnel. It’s time to dive deep and prevent burnout in hospital employees by monitoring Operations Health and improving their workload and work experience. Schedule a demo at calmwave.ai today to learn more about how our Operations Health Platform improves the Operations Health of your hospital and empowers you to better support your clinicians and patients.
Stanford Medicine, “How Doctors Feel About Electronic Health Records”
Topaz et al., Nurse Informaticians Report Low Satisfaction and Multi-level Concerns with Electronic Health Records: Results from an International Survey
Linzer et al., Trends in Clinician Burnout With Associated Mitigating and Aggravating Factors During the COVID-19 Pandemic