Accustomed to Instagram, Millennial Physicians Won't Stand for 1980s EMR Technology

Millennials (born 1981-1996) are now a driving force in medicine. The first generation to have grown up with ubiquitous internet access, Millennials have high technology expectations. And hospital technology has to evolve as a result.

According to Pew Research, 93 percent of Millennials own a smartphone (versus 90 percent for Gen X, and just 68 for Baby Boomers). Of the average 242 minutes Millennials spend on the Internet each day, 211 minutes of it – or 87 percent – is on a mobile device. They are accustomed to being constantly connected.

A millennial nurse practitioner recently told me of her hospital's EMR system, "It's so time consuming to do something so simple – the opposite of my experience using Facebook and Instagram."

And then they start working in a hospital setting, where the most commonly used EMR software was originally developed before many of them were born.

In a Wall Street Journal article, one physician leader shared that millennial physicians on staff at her hospital questioned why EMRs and clinical documentation couldn't be more like using an iPhone. Anyone who uses Instagram on a regular basis and then uses an EMR would be shocked – the experiences could not be any more different.

A millennial nurse practitioner recently told me of her hospital's EMR system, "It's so time consuming to do something so simple – the opposite of my experience using Facebook and Instagram." She feels most of her time is taken up by documentation, yet the EMR doesn't provide the means for her to add notes in her own voice – it's all drop down, predefined selections. This is probably why mobile apps for the major EMRs have between a 2.5 - 2.6 rating on the app store. The bar has been set very low.

In a mobile-first era, we are asking our physicians and other medical staff to use software interfaces that were originally designed well before the advent of mobile devices. One anonymous millennial physician, writing for MedSpace, said that for every one hour of patient care, s/he spends two hours entering data into an EMR. Another, writing for Medical Economics, pleaded for new user interfaces, saying, "I have yet to meet a young physician colleague or trainee who has displayed any emotion greater than lackluster contentment with their medical record system."

The frustrating user experience associated with EMR technology is a chief contributor to physician burnout – a very troubling issue in the healthcare industry. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the numbers of physicians reporting burnout, fatigue and depression were on the rise. In fact, in a Jan 2020 Medscape report, 42 percent of physicians reported feeling burned out, and one in five reported that they are depressed. The most common reason physicians cited for their burnout (55 percent): increasing administrative burdens, like charting.

Bringing back the "Joy in Medicine" is something hospitals all over the country are prioritizing so they can attract and retain the best staff. Reducing administrative tasks so physicians can spend more time on patient care has been identified as a key to addressing burnout, so hospitals are researching tech solutions to automate things like physician queries on documentation.

Physician queries are designed to make sure physician notes are accurate and complete in the medical record, and they play an important part in hospital reimbursements, quality metrics and patient care – especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic, when hospitals need to capture full reimbursement for the complex and expensive care they are providing. Higher query response rates and completion of more queries can translate into millions of dollars in additional reimbursement and higher quality scores for a hospital. It is, however, a very time-consuming process for physicians, and one that reduces time available for patient care.

Artifact Health has automated this task so it can be done on a physician's smartphone in a matter of seconds, easily and compliantly. Hundreds of hospitals such as Johns Hopkins Medicine, Children's National Hospital and UPMC Western Maryland have already put this mobile technology to work to ease the administrative burden for physicians, clinical documentation specialists and coding staff.

Healthcare mobile apps are especially needed right now, during the pandemic, because they allow physicians and other hospital staff to more quickly and easily access and triage information while at the hospital or from home – where many non-essential staff are currently working.

Within a few years, millennial (and then, Gen Z) physicians will become the majority, and these younger physicians will be making the purchasing decisions at hospitals and health systems. They will demand technology that has the same ease of use they are used to, and without a doubt, will select modernized solutions that give them more time for patient care.