How Technology is Changing Healthcare Professionals’ Job Tasks

In July, I wrote about how technology is improving patient access to healthcare.  Often (and rightfully so), when technology is discussed in healthcare, it is in reference to improving patient outcomes or delivering more efficient care to increase revenue and/or improve patient experience.  However, advancements in technology are shaping how jobs are performed within healthcare.  The below outlines some of the important impact digitization is having on job functions.

  1. Electronic Health Records

With the wide (almost universal) adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), patient information is now at providers’ fingertips.  EHRs offer many benefits including the availability of all a patient’s information in one location, easy consideration of all aspects of a patient’s condition and documented care interactions to help keep all caregivers updated on a patient’s condition.  However, despite the benefits of increased documentation, many frustrations have also been cited by healthcare professionals.  One major concern, particularly among physicians, is that documentation requirements are burdensome, especially because there is a typically a lack of interoperability, and physicians do not feel they are engaged enough in EHR optimization efforts.  As documentation requirements allow for improvements in care delivery, it is important to consider where EHRs still fall short and can negatively impact care delivery staff’s job productivity and satisfaction.

  1. Automation of Tasks

As kiosks, tablets, and computer terminals are becoming the norm in check-in areas of medical offices, reception staff is disappearing.  While organizations are reallocating reception staff to other roles such as answering calls in a call center or scheduling appointments, automation is changing jobs. Another example of how task automation is changing the healthcare workforce is in pharmacy, where counting pill counters, automated dispensing machines, and inventory management systems replace what used to be time-consuming tasks for pharmacy staff and allow these professionals to spend more time acting as health advisors and working to the top of their license.

  1. Data-Driven Decision Making and Access to Information

In today’s technology environment, data can be tracked to drive improvement in both one-on-one patient/provider interactions and in larger improvement projects.  Sharing data among EHRs, for example, is one way technology is changing the way healthcare professionals approach patient diagnostics.  A recent study published by CMS and the American Hospital Association linked sharing diagnostic data between health systems to lower mortality rates and better patient outcomes.  Technology allows providers access to patient data with similar symptoms and allows communication between providers in way not possible before.  Access to large amounts of data also helps drive improvement as metrics are documented, tracked, and acted upon as information becomes available

Technology is changing rapidly, and it’s important to keep in mind that it is changing the way healthcare professionals perform their jobs.  Although many of the changes are positive, such as improving diagnostics and automating tasks, there are some downfalls such as documentation burden and changing duties that must be considered as healthcare leaders ask their staff to adapt at the same pace as technology is advancing.