Coverage & Commentary

A physician’s open letter to health tech startups

Physicians across America feel that we were either left off the guest list or have been invited late to the party, too late to change things. We’d like to receive an invitation from you — the developers of digital healthcare tools — early in the development process. We want to help you help us help people. With the rise of chronic disease and the need for continuous connected care, time is of the essence. We’d like to be a part of the innovation process that will transform how we practice medicine.

While many new technologies work well after the period of adaptation, leaving end-users (physicians) out of the product development process leads to unanticipated problems such as unintuitive and frustrating workflow, taxing documentation requirements, and nonsensical and inaccurate cut-and-paste progress notes. Certainly, it takes time to learn any new tool, and new technologies do force workflow evolution. But once the adaptation period passes, our tools should improve documentation and workflow and enhance the assessment of practice patterns and quality measures. These enhancements are not happening. To add to the annoyance, digital tools do little to help physicians embrace and apply the enormous amounts of new medical information coming out each day.

Cumbersome digital tools make for poor workflow, provide little help, and do not communicate with each other. These attributes lead to emotional exhaustion, decreased work performance, and low enthusiasm — thus satisfying all three diagnostic criteria for workplace burnout.