Building a better digital experience for physicians to reduce burnout & improve patient care
Physicians are burning out at an alarming rate.
According to a 2022 Medscape survey, 47% of physicians reported burnout. The American Medical Association has found that 24% of physicians have expressed an intent to leave their practice within the next two years. Should this trend continue, studies suggest that the U.S. may face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by the year 2034.
Our team of five CMU MHCI Graduate students - with the guidance of Optum’s senior leadership - was tasked with uncovering the extent to which current medical software contributes to physician burnout. Emphasis was placed on primary care physicians specifically, who are often the first point of contact for patients exhibiting any concerning physical symptoms.
So we made something to help.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have traditionally grouped patient information by data type (problem list, medications, labs, social history, etc.), with information in each type further displayed in chronological order. This fragmented view works counter to the natural clinical workflow, where different pieces of information that span across data types are considered relative to a patient’s problem list. First proposed by Lawrence L. Weed, M.D. in 1968, gathehr is structured as a Problem-Oriented Medical Record (POMR), displaying relevant information in context based on a patient’s overall problem list. By linking data to problem, gathehr helps physicians spend less time sifting through different tabs, and more time interacting directly with their patients.
While the patient-physician interaction is heavily influenced by what brings the patient in for a visit, most physicians we spoke to did indicate a typical work style that they loosely followed, regardless of what patient had been roomed. While some physicians preferred to see vitals first, others found summaries of recent visits more helpful. Gathehr puts the content of that ‘first glance’ view in the hands of physicians. Gathehr will adapt to the nuances of your workflow, and allow you to modify what you see first at any time.
The ability to visually process a patient’s longitudinal dataset - such as weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels - was repeatedly cited by the physicians we spoke to as a highly valuable tool. Those who cared for patients with chronic conditions particularly longed for a way to quickly understand trends and monitor vitals related to certain conditions. With no more than two clicks, Gathehr gives physicians the ability to view datasets over time, improving processing speed and situating a patient encounter in the context of their full medical history.
The demand for physicians often far exceeds the capacity of practices to provide timely care. As a result, physicians must navigate increasingly high rates of patient throughput, with the timing of data entry a tradeoff. Administrative tasks (updating patient charts) are often left for the end of the day, requiring reliance on physician’s finite working memory. Such reliance not only increases the propensity to experience cognitive overload, but also increases the likelihood of error. Gathehr’s ambient listening tool helps physicians collect key pieces of information at the point of encounter, offloading the demands previously placed on their working memory.
Physicians - under immense time constraints - typically prefer to take notes quickly using unstructured text. This free-text style allows physicians more freedom of expression and speed. While preferable for data entry, unstructured data proves burdensome when physicians are forced to read through many lines of text to uncover information from past visits. Studies have revealed that the act of reading clinical notes is more time-consuming than any other task in the EHR. Gathehr’s voice-to-text solution is based around parsing data at the point of encounter, creating text suggestions that are structured instead of simply a transcript of the entire encounter.