Working in outpatient practice transitioning to EHR, Dr. Lolita Alkureishi saw firsthand technology’s often negative impact on patient communication and the visit dynamic.
“As a fly on the wall during the roll out I was instantly hit by how seasoned and even new practitioners were struggling with the EHR,” Alkureishi says. “It was having major impact on their communication behaviors with patients… behaviors they were not even aware of because they were so engrossed with this new technology that had infiltrated into their practice.”
An Assistant Professor in General Pediatric Academic Medicine at the University of Chicago and Clerkship Director at the Pritzker School of Medicine, she was drawn to medicine and pediatrics by relationships and family centered care and so found the EHR’s impact on communication and the patient-provider relationship frustrating. Looking for a way to enhance patient-centered technology use and promote patient-doctor communication in a computerized setting, she and fellow physician Dr. Wei Wei Lee conceived a practical solution: a patient-centered EHR curriculum.
Today Alkureishi is one of three Geneia Joy of Medicine Challenge finalists. Spurred by the alarming results of the Physician Misery Index, Medstro, a social network for physicians, and Geneia, a company of experienced healthcare change agents creating analytic and technology solutions to improve healthcare, created the online competition to encourage U.S.-licensed physicians and medical students to brainstorm ideas for relieving the regulatory and business-related burdens negatively impacting meaningful interaction between physicians and their patients. As a finalist, Dr. Alkureishi will participate in a live pitch-off event June 8 at MATTER, Chicago’s newly launched healthcare technology incubator for next-generation health IT, medical device, diagnostics, and biopharma companies.
According to Alkureishi, the patient-centered EHR curriculum comes down to awareness. “Awareness on part of the provider and even the patient that there is this powerful third party in the room and how that could potentially be viewed as a negative,” she says. “It’s a very basic start but it’s required if we’re going to ask providers to go beyond worrying about the EHR…and instead embrace it and exploit it to enhance dialogue and interaction.”
This awareness translates to mindful technology training, not only learning the functionality of EHR but also how to use it with patients. Such practices have the ability to greatly augment the patient-provider conversation, increasing accessibility and engagement between patients and their physicians. Examples of such practices include using flowsheets and graphs to narrow down potential labs physicians can show patients, using embedded protocols that are due as a springboard for discussion about care, allowing patients to comment on their own medical notes and, at some point, “encouraging patients to take part in patient portals, to extend the conversation beyond the clinic or hospital room and into an electronic space.”
The curriculum has already been put in place with second year medical students at the University of Chicago to much success. Compared to the group of third year students who never took a one-hour lecture on patient-centered EMR use, the second years statistically outperformed their untrained counterparts. As a new generation of tech savvy millennials enter the workfield, the need for a curriculum teaching objective communication behaviors and tech-etiquette can only grow.
“Technology as a prompt to engage, to promote discussion, to facilitate understanding is key,” says Alkureishi, “and given there is no way around the EHR, it’s crucial to know how to use it in order to continue to promote humanistic patient-centered care.”
The Geneia Joy of Medicine live pitch-off event takes place June 8th at MATTER, Chicago’s newly launched healthcare technology incubator for next-generation health IT, medical device, diagnostics, and biopharma companies. Tickets to the event are free but almost gone. You can reserve your tickets online at Eventbrite. Click here to find out more about the finalists.
Paula is a freelance science writer and strategic communications associate at Health Leads. Formerly a managing editor at MedTech Boston, she has a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University and has worked with the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Boston Globe, Social Documentary Network, BU Today and several nonprofit organizations. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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