Doctors vs. Computers

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Digitalisation in healthcare? So far we have only replaced the paper with a digital format. Doctors are frustrated and loose their faith in technologies.

In the article “Why Doctors Hate Their Computers”, published in The New Yorker, Atul Gawande analysed what happens when a computer screen stands between the doctor and patient. In my opinion, the frustration is not caused by technology, but something completely different.

Computer-related issues in the workplace are nothing new, and they can be observed in many sectors, especially during the initial stage of a digital transformation. The employee vs. computer issues most frequently arise from the need to change work procedures and previous habits. Who has never complained about a new IT system that they must learn? Who has not considered the old system to be better, more reliable and easier to use? Finally, who has never asked why it was necessary to implement the new solution anyway?

Technology will doubtlessly continue to improve speed reading and precise diagnosis skills, health monitoring and the development of new therapies. It will help document the therapy process, even though the information it provides might not necessarily broaden our knowledge. The higher the level of technological development, the more questions that arise and the greater the complexity of the processes.

We still don’t make best out of the digital health solutions.

The fact that we are still in the very painful, first stage of healthcare digitisation, seems to be the biggest problem. Switching from paper to digital formats is not just about changing the tool, and so we remain unable to use the automation from these new technologies to its full potential. The systems are not ready to analyse patients’ records or to warn about health hazards. Doctors often receive dozens of notifications about laboratory test results, but they cannot process them under the current work model. The amount of information and the possibilities available in the digital era increases faster than we can control or even manage. As a result, the technology controls us.

However, it is still up to doctors to decide how they can use the new technologies. They can turn away from the screen, and look at the patient. It is also easy to forget that the paper era did not make anything easier or faster. We often idealise the future when faced with current problems, and the amount of data that can be recorded with the use of digital tools continues to increase. For the time being, we are not 100% sure how to use it all, but this will slowly change, as this is the purpose of artificial intelligence systems. Following the period of fascination with technology and the generation of newer solutions, it is time to think about how we can develop tools that can be fully accepted by doctors. If not, then it means that the problem lies in the software development process and in the dialogue with the user. Doctors are not against IT, the frustration is caused by the procedures, administrative requirements and other liabilities.

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