There is now no doubt that the new EHR (Electronic Health Record) system which most hospitals and clinics implemented in recent years are becoming more cost and time efficient than the old ways of filing paper work for medical history/reports. At the same time, the records stored in EHR tend to be more secure than those records stored in paper portfolio folders too. However, such efficiency leads to a newer problem between connection of patients and their physicians.
Now-a-days, whenever patients visit their doctor in a clinic or hospital, they always have to retrieve their patient’s medical history from their enormous HER database in their computers, regardless of whether is it an annual body check or a serious illness. Besides, viewing medical test results, tracking health maintenance, writing prescriptions, and many other medical procedures are now done by computer. The time doctors spent on EHR system takes over significant amount of total time per doctor visit.
“Many clinicians worry that electronic health records keep them from connecting with their patients,” said Dr. Neda Ratanawongsa of the University of California, San Francisco, who co-authored the research of association between clinical computer use and communication with patient in Safety-net clinics.”
In fact, some doctors are spending more time on computers than with patients at their daily shifts. Recently, the Annals of Internal Medicine had published a study of how physicians spend time at work. In the report, 36 Swiss physicians with average more than two years of postgraduate education were being observed for 696.7 hours. As result, in an average 11.6 hours day shift, physicians spent in average 1.7 hours with patients, 5.2 hours on computers, and 13 minutes doing both. In other words, physicians are spending about three times the time on the computer updating medical history, arranging prescription, and other administrative works like data entry than interacting with the patient. The sample size of 36 Swiss physicians may be too small and cannot represent the work flow of all doctors around the world, yet it represents some doctors’ work flow in certain hospitals.
Unsurprisingly, this leads some patients dissatisfaction toward the medical services they are receiving. It’s a logical thought; who would trust a doctor who spends most of their time on the computer while diagnosing them? Even if the trust is there, it seems as if the computer is the real doctor, while the real doctor is merely the computer operator.
What if doctors can spend less time being burdened by administrative work? Imagine having an administrative assistant updating the medical information automatically whenever there’s an update. The doctors would be able to spend more time on their patients and get their work done faster.
Augmedix, a healthcare tech startup based on San Francisco in 2012, has raised $17 million from investors, and possesses an innovative solution to this emerging issue. They are trying to make the patient-doctor relationship more personalized. Their product, the “remote scribe,” plans on eliminating most of the time spent on administrative works. Augmedix purchased their commercial license from Google. Their remote scribe uses the technology of google glass to “re-humanize” the doctor-patient interaction so that they spend less time facing the computer screen and more time on interacting with patients.
Overall, beside its geeky, futuristic appearance and basic functions that every smart phone has, the discontinued consumer product google glass now can serve as an administrative assistant. Doctors can update their patients’ information with verbal commands or its augmented technology of the remote scribe as long as there is wireless network connectivity in the office. The administrative work can be done automatically since the remote scribe supports most EHRs available on the market. Perhaps google glass can ease more administrative assistant works in the future.
“Augmedix simplifies how physicians use EHRs by providing a technology-enabled documentation service for health systems and doctors. We are on a mission to re-humanize the doctor-patient relationship, and address the largest pain-point in the US healthcare system – the burden of documentation. The Augmedix service saves doctors an average of 15 hours per week, enabling them to see more patients and spend more time with their existing patients." – Augmedix’s mission statement.
One of the co-founders of Augmedix, Ian Shakil, graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and a MBA degree from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Another co-founder, Pelu Tran, received a Bachelor of Science degree in biomechanics engineering and a M.D. degree in Medicine from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Together, they formed a team with the intent of bringing solutions to the problems of how doctors, administrative/technological innovation, and the dissatisfaction of patients. In an interview with The SV Startup 100, Tran mentioned how the modern medical industry in the US does not need anymore advance robotics or technology to solve the existing issues, but rather, needs to focus on how the services are delivered. Also, unlike the rest of the world which lacks medical supplies, professional doctors, or technology, the US has all of these, minus a consistent method of delivering such advance medical services.
Whenever we get sick and visit a doctor, we understand the usage of their computer to arrange medical data, but we may not realize the time doctors are spending on computer in comparison to patients. Only those who spend a significant amount of time observing the medical industry can realize this issue, conduct a research, and even bring up an innovative solution. Augmedix currently serves as one of those - whose goal is to divide doctors from their monitors by integrating them.