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Why is the Healthcare Industry Slow to Adopt Technology?

by | Jun 8, 2022 | All Posts

The healthcare industry is slow to adopt new technology. It’s difficult to understand when outside the industry, but there are many factors contributing to this slow adoption curve. Here’s an exemplary patient journey that highlights a few issues hospital personnel experience on a regular basis.

Melissa enters the hospital with chest pain. After her admission, she is examined by her care team and prescribed medications. Because of a bug in the system, the electronic health record (EHR) assigns a dose of a medication from every member of the care team. Melissa’s physician gives her one dose, but since the EHR has multiple doses assigned, Melissa’s nurse is not notified. The nurse arrives at Melissa’s room to give the med, when an alert goes off on the nurse’s computer. Normally, the nurses ignore many of the alerts on the EHR system since they tend to be false alarms. This new EHR system isn’t calibrated for the finite details within this hospital. In this case, Melissa’s nurse fortunately catches that her patient has already received this medication, saving Melissa from getting double-dosed. Though the rest of Melissa’s hospital stay was uneventful, it ended with a digital overview of her care and what she needs. This information is shown to her on a tablet and little overview is given to help Melissa access it later, leading to her disregarding it. Melissa leaves the hospital feeling unsure about the care she receives and doubting her route to recovery.

The scenario above shows just a few elements as to why the healthcare industry is slow to adopt new technology. In the example, Melissa’s safety was put at risk by an EHR duplicating medication orders. The EHR’s alert caught the nurse’s attention, but an increase of alerts causes alert fatigue. Lastly, Melissa is given discharge information in a way that is hard for her to access or understand. Due to this she is unable to follow through with the information she has been given and doesn’t put as much trust into her care providers as before. In other industries, technology has optimized processes and improved relationships between businesses and consumers. Why hasn’t tech caught on in healthcare?

Why is modern healthcare slow to adopt technology?

Healthcare is a vital industry, but its importance makes change tough, especially when any changes can have dire consequences. These factors fall into three categories: patient-based, provider-based, and industry-wide.

  • Patient-based
    • Little room for error in healthcare
    • Patient safety
    • Patients want to be treated by humans
  • Provider-based
    • Not a consistent or constant field
    • Aversion to changing previous workflow
    • Resistance by younger care providers at primitive features
    • Alert fatigue
  • Industry-wide
    • Specific hospital-wide specializations
    • Compliance to regulations

The general solution to this issue is the digital transformation of Melissa’s hospital. By implementing comprehensive digital systems, the hospital will be safer during tasks like delivering medications while avoiding conflicting or incorrect information from outdated tech. Leadership at the hospital could plan the training for all the care providers in a way that is insightful and leads to a smooth transition. Digital transformation is the foundational solution. With these details in mind, let’s take a look at some specific solutions.

Solutions to Melissa’s Experience

Several events happened during Melissa’s stay that were not safe or helpful:

  1. Her EHR had a bug that prescribed her multiple doses of the same medication.
  2. Though her nurse caught it, multiple alerts with no indication of their importance risk alert fatigue amongst the staff.
  3. Melissa was given digital discharge instructions when she needed in-person care. She is unable to absorb the given information because of this.

To fix Problem #1, the hospital should rigorously and continuously test its EHR system. By testing the EHR, the hospital can catch bugs like the one Melissa experienced before providers and patients will ever interact with them. For Problem #2, the best way to fight against alert fatigue is to examine the data behind the alerts. Looking at the data shows that certain non-critical alerts are being ignored and silenced, causing providers to miss out on all alerts that come through. Cutting down the amounts of alerts to only ones that are critical will lessen alert fatigue and further prevent mistakes. 

Lastly, Problem #3 can be fixed through two software solutions: a digital learning system or a mobile app. With a digital learning system, patients can access digital resources pertaining to their health. Similarly, a mobile app allows patients to view their health information on-the-go. Both of these systems let patients stay on top of their health in between routine care. By providing more efficient and updated tech, patients and providers alike can benefit and the healthcare industry will continue to flourish.

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