Jordan Search Consultants Blog
The ever-changing landscape of the healthcare industry can be a difficult one to navigate. To help you stay in-the-know, Jordan Search Consultants’ Founder and CEO, Kathy Jordan, posts twice a month about a range of healthcare and higher education topics. Some subjects she frequently touches on include recruitment, organizational culture, candidate sourcing, population health, integrated care, physician leadership, and much more.
Want Kathy to answer a question you have or address a topic you’ve been wondering about? Email her here.
As a healthcare recruitment firm, we’ve recently seen a tremendous increase in psychiatrist searches. In fact, psychiatry is currently the third most recruited position in the country, falling just behind family medicine and internal medicine. Why? The answer is twofold.
Psychiatry is becoming progressively more important in society.
Becker’s Hospital Review states that one out of five American adults experience a mental illness every year. This statistic rings louder than ever before as popular culture—such as the recent Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”—sheds light on the realities of mental health. Such movements to destigmatize mental illness have helped to encourage those in need of psychiatric care to seek it. Plus, more people in general are prioritizing their mental health. A recent national survey found that 90 percent of people value mental health and physical health equally, and 93 percent of people said they’d intervene if they discovered someone close to them was contemplating suicide. Ultimately, the public is becoming more aware, more educated, and more accepting of mental illness.
While the population is growing, the psychiatry field is shrinking.
The April 2017 issue of Academic Psychiatry illustrates that the U.S. has seen about a 37 percent population increase in the past 20 years, while the psychiatry field has increased only by 12 percent. We are seeing the effects of this now as 55 percent of U.S. counties currently do not have psychiatrists and the national average wait for a psychiatrist appointment is 25 days, according to a report conducted by the National Council for Behavioral Health. The reason for the shortage of psychiatrists boils down to the fact that as more and more psychiatrists retire, less and less students are choosing psychiatry as a profession. Industry leaders speculate that the lack of interest in the field likely stems from lower wages due to minimal reimbursement from insurance companies. Psychiatry is compensated far less than procedure-based specialties, such as cardiology or general surgery. Considering medical school students are graduating with an average of $207,000 in student loans, it’s no surprise that they are choosing fields that will allow them to pay this massive debt off at a quicker rate.
Working Toward a Solution
It has become clear that sustainable changes aimed at filling psychiatry residency spots year-after-year can only occur if all stakeholders (federal and state governments, payers, providers, provider trade associations and advocates) take action within their respective spheres of influence in the design, funding, regulation, and delivery of mental health care. Each of the stakeholders have a role and must work together to make an impact. Servicing those suffering from mental health issues must be a top priority.
Residents and fellows have staying power. They work extremely long hours—often without taking the time to sleep or eat. They are constantly surrounded by trauma and illness. They sacrifice time spent with friends and family to perfect their craft and pursue a dream. Becoming a physician is not for the faint of heart—and it is no wonder that resident depression, anxiety, and suicide rates have increased over time.
A Mayo Clinic study showed a strong correlation between burnout and depression, with 31% of residents screening positive for depression and 51% reporting a history of depression during residency. It is clear that rates of depression are higher in medical students and residents (15% to 30%) than in the general population. Some surveys have found that roughly 10 percent of medical students have reported having thoughts of killing themselves within the past year, which compares to 3.7 percent of the general U.S. population.
Complicating matters? Because of the significant demands on their time, residents and fellows are less likely to receive mental health treatment than members of the general population.
In years prior, there were no limits to the number of hours residents work. However, the ACGME, the governing body overseeing medical and surgical residency programs, has taken measures through the years to stunt the burnout epidemic. In 2003, with adjustments in 2011, the council imposed an 80-hour cap on the number of hours a resident can work per week, with 16 consecutive hours also serving as a limit for first-year residents (24 hours for second- and third-year residents).
To accompany these regulations, there are additional measures your organization can take to curb resident and fellow burnout.
1. Hold Special Stress-Mitigating Staff Events
Appreciation can go a long way in the medical industry. At Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, a hospital committee runs a yearly event called Paws for Pennsy (P4P), where cats and dogs are brought in for staff to enjoy.
“This definitely helps,” said Stephen Tsoukas, a medical resident at the hospital. “Hospitals are stressful. Some cases are sad. This brightens up your day.”
The UNC School of Medicine takes a similar route, hosting annual social events and activities to diminish burnout. These events include picnics, welcome and goodbye dinners, and participation in softball and kickball leagues.
2. Be Aware: Recognize Symptoms and Take Action
Residents are trained to detect signs of depression or substance abuse among patients. According to Morganna L. Freeman, DO, FACP, chair of ACP’s Council of Resident/Fellow Members and chief oncology fellow at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla., this should be practiced with peers, as well.
“Our skillset as clinicians in paying attention not only to what patients say but what they don’t say or how they interact with you is something you can easily carry over to how you interact with colleagues. … We have to look out for each other,” she said.
When Dr. Freeman saw a resident exhibiting signs of depression or anxiety, she waited until rounds were over, pulled him or her aside, offered to take the next admission, and suggested a coffee break.
3. Make Communication (and well-being check-ins) Mandatory
Residents should feel comfortable speaking about their struggles. However, the current residency/fellowship climate often discourages this, leaving physicians feeling uncomfortable about sharing their failures or struggles with superiors.
A former resident’s suicide inspired Stanford’s Department of Surgery to form a wellness program that promotes psychological and physical well-being for new surgeons. A focus of the Balance in Life program includes mandatory group therapy with Lisa Post, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Post is also available for one-on-one counseling if the participants deem it necessary.
Balance in Life has implemented stress-mitigating staff events on the campus lawn, mentoring partnerships between junior and senior residents, and healthy snack-stocked fridges since its inception in 2011.
Odds are that individuals in intense residency and fellowship programs will experience some sort of burnout throughout their journey. By normalizing these feelings and behaviors—and offering outlets for communication and counsel—leading academic healthcare centers throughout the country can help to mitigate this long-standing challenge. Innovative resources, respite opportunities, and organized appreciation events will go a long way in improving the mental health and clarity of hard-working residents and physicians.
Choosing a specialty is a major step for an aspiring physician. For every student who enters medical school already knowing which type of medicine they want to practice, there are many others who are undecided and open to the myriad possibilities. Fortunately, the medical education process allows students to ‘test drive’ different specialties before selecting one in which to specialize.
It’s during these medical school rotations that students are exposed to the nuts and bolts of the various specialties. While all medical schools require third-year students to complete rotations in internal medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, and surgery, others also require specialties such as neurology, emergency medicine, and radiology. With so many specialties and subspecialties available, many times it’s up to the student to pursue an elective rotation, usually in the summer periods during med school. Giving students hands-on experience in different specialties goes a long way in helping them determine which specialties they may want to pursue, and just as importantly, those they do not.
Many times, choosing a specialty can be as simple as a student asking themselves what they enjoy. Do they like working with their hands and doing procedures? Then a surgical specialty may be the way to go. Do they like solving puzzles and figuring out a diagnosis? Then internal medicine may be the right choice. Other key questions that young physicians consider include the amount of time they are willing to spend in their training:
- Residencies for surgical specialties can last a minimum of six years, plus fellowship may also be required
- The amount of stress involved—ER docs must make split-second decisions that can literally be the difference between life and death
- What type of setting suits them—a large organization may be right for some, while others prefer a small private practice
With so many options, it’s by having the opportunity to work in various settings and disciplines, that physicians are able to narrow down their choices and find the one that suits them best. The shortage of, and competition for, residency slots make it less practical to pursue a specialty solely based on individual preference. Instead, physicians’ decisions may be more influenced by what’s available. Learn more about how what the residency slot shortage means for the future of healthcare—and opportunities available to future physicians—here.
Are healthcare regulations and incentives about to disrupt physician compensation models again? Although there are many models of physician compensation in effect, each with its own rewards and risks, the uncertainty following the U.S. presidential election has made it necessary for physicians and medical systems to take a wait-and-see approach as to what comes next.
Here are some of the models currently in use:
Fee-for-Service: This model focuses on paying for service with the focus on throughput and productivity. The risk with FFS is the tendency for overuse.
Fee-for-Value: The move to this model was meant to improve outcomes and reduce costs across the continuum of collaborative care. In the Fee-for-Value model, success requires a model to produce improved care outcomes while lowering costs of care.
Straight Salary: This simply means annual pay for doing the job. Misuse and underuse are both concerns with this model.
Pay-for-Performance: This model pairs compensation with predefined performance benchmarks. With P4P models, there is less chance for misuse, but overuse can result in a decrease in quality.
Capitation: This classic model of compensation is based on a fixed amount of patients per month.
Bundled Payment: Based on episodes of care across a continuum of healthcare professionals (individuals and teams) as well as organizations, this model lines up services with need.
Concierge: This model combines Fee-for-Service with an annual retainer. There is a low risk of overuse with this model because of the high cost.
ACO: This model is based on savings from which pay is determined by other metrics tied to the three goals (also known as the Triple Aim) of improving the patient experience of care—including quality and satisfaction, improving the health of populations, and lowering the per capita cost of health care.
Direct Contracting: This model pays physicians based upon a contract with an employer, eliminating the insurance intermediary. There is little to no value-based incentive, so the potential for overuse and misuse exists.
Production RVU: Based on a percentage of a physician’s productivity, the RVU stands for Relative Value Units—a RVU is given to each patient encounter, including procedures and surgery, and the physician.
One of the objectives of the Affordable Care Act was to tie physician compensation to increased patient quality and outcomes. What comes next remains to be seen, but flexibility and adaptability will be a key to sustainability. How is your organization preparing for potential change?
As a female business owner of a company that embraces diversity in the workplace, encouraging women to advance their careers and gain leadership roles is very important to me. In medicine—an industry with which Jordan Search Consultants works intimately—the professional barriers that women face are especially apparent; only 18% of U.S. hospital CEOs are female. According to HealthcareDIVE, the share of incoming women CEOs in the world’s 2,500 largest public companies dropped to 2.8% in 2015, the lowest level since 2011. Among healthcare companies, the rate was even lower—1.6%. It is my goal, as a healthcare staffing provider, to impact change these statistics. As such, here are several ways women in medicine can advance their careers.
- Adopt a leadership mindset in advance. Leaders don’t become leaders by accepting leadership positions. They are offered those positions because they have already prepared themselves for the role. For example, those who dream of transitioning from healthcare provider to healthcare administrator should consider getting an MBA. There are many other leadership training opportunities outside of a formal university education, as well. The important thing to remember is that if you want to advance your career, you can’t wait until you’ve reached a leadership position to start acting like a leader. Adopt the mindset now.
- Find a mentor (or at least a resource who can help guide you). A recent survey of male and female healthcare leaders found that women place more value on their bosses, peers, and organizational resources when it came to plotting an upward career path. This tells us that women are more likely to seek out guidance on their way to the top. This is significant because in order to achieve a leadership position, you can’t be hesitant to ask for guidance. This can come in the form of finding a mentor in the C-suite to help guide you through the process or making use of a variety of other resources your organization may have available to you.
- Face your fears head on. One of the most prominent qualities of a leader is fearlessness. That’s not to say that every successful woman in medicine never had her anxieties. But it does mean that she understood that in order to succeed, she had to overcome them. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, consider volunteering to speak at your organization’s next event or lead a training program or webinar on a topic about which you have specialized knowledge. Even if it’s not directly related to your career goals, taking on something you don’t want to do will prove to your peers—and more importantly, to yourself—that you are a leader.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that the sky is the limit for women in healthcare and healthcare administration. By securing a mentor, asking for guidance, adopting a leadership mindset, and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, you have the power to dictate your own career path—all the way to the top.
If there is one thing our clients know about Jordan Search Consultants, it’s that we go above and beyond to find the perfect candidate, every time. Through our customized recruitment processes, extensive candidate database, passive and active candidate marketing techniques, and comprehensive industry knowledge, they have confidence that each search for which they engage us will be filled successfully. What many clients don’t know, however, is that we don’t do it all on our own. We rely heavily on our partners throughout the nation to help “sell” our clients’ communities—especially when relocation is involved—and relocation specialists are a go-to resource.
We interviewed Kathy Jordan, our Founder and CEO, to find out just how important real estate partnerships are throughout the candidate recruitment process.
Q. Why is it important for search firms to develop close relationships with relocation specialists?
We may have the tools to produce top-tier candidates that align with your organizational culture; but one thing we can’t control is the candidate’s willingness to move. That’s why relocation specialists often become an extended part of our recruitment team.
Q. What qualities do you look for when looking for a relocation specialist with whom to partner?
Knowledge and passion. Our partners are not only knowledgeable about the homes they are showing or the housing market, but they can provide endless amounts of valuable information about the community. Similarly, they are not just passionate about real estate; more importantly, they are passionate about the city they are selling. The specialists with whom we partner are their community’s number one advocate.
Q. Has a relocation specialist ever helped to close a candidate who was wavering on their decision?
Absolutely. Often, the partner, spouse, or family member of the candidate we are courting is the decision-maker. In such cases, we have had specialists go above and beyond by taking them around and showing them cultural hot spots while the candidate is in interviews. They find out what the family is interested in—whether it be schools, religious facilities, or family hobbies—and showcase all of the best parts of the community that meet their needs. We once had a candidate whose daughter did not want to move, so our partner relocation specialist arranged for her to meet a local violin teacher because that was her passion. The daughter fell in love with the teacher and was soon in full support of the move, so the candidate took the job. It was a win-win!
We also talked to one of our primary partners in St. Louis, Jill Butler, owner of RedKey Realty, to get her perspective on real estate’s role in recruitment.
Q. Why is the ability to sell a community just as important as market knowledge?
One of the most important parts of selling a home is selling the community. The most beautiful home in the world means nothing to most families if they aren’t confident in the schools their children will attend or the culture that they will be surrounded by each day.
Q. How do you recruit relocation specialists who you feel are knowledgeable and passionate about St. Louis?
As RedKey has developed an expertise in relocation, this has become an ever-important question. We look for specialists who not only love and appreciate St. Louis, but are actually participants in the community. When you’re constantly involved in events throughout the city, it’s impossible not to be passionate about it, and it’s also the best way to gain knowledge.
Q. Have you ever helped a recruiter close a deal with a candidate who was wavering on their decision?
Many times. When we partner with search firms or organizations with relocation initiatives, part of our process is to take the candidate and their family on a limo tour through the city. We go by cultural institutions, tell them about the rich history of each neighborhood, and introduce them to everything we love about St. Louis. Our partners oftentimes tell us that the tour is what solidified their candidate’s decision. It’s a lot of fun for everyone.
There you have it. When you’re seeking the best of the best, you can’t afford not to ensure that your top candidates are sold on every aspect of your organization—including its zip code. If your healthcare organization needs help recruiting out-of-town candidates to your city, Jordan Search Consultants has the knowledge and partnerships to ensure success.
Every year the United States continues to become a more diverse nation. Changing demographics, immigration, and population shifts mean that more people of different ethnicities, religious beliefs, and orientations are calling all parts of the U.S. home.
So, what does this mean for healthcare organizations?
It means that the need for ‘culturally competent’ caregivers is on the rise. Physicians, nurses, aides, caregivers, and office staff interact with patients of various backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, and ages on a daily basis. From the way that healthcare professionals approach a patient (in some cultures a handshake or eye contact can be considered offensive, while older patients may feel that being addressed by their first name is too informal), to language barriers, to instilling a feeling of trust and comfort, the challenge is on providers and organizations to find ways to better serve patients from all over the world.
Beyond the comfort factor, a lack of diversity can lead to health disparities. A recent report from the Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workplace, entitled “Missing Persons: Minorities in the Healthcare Professions,” states that “The fact that the nation’s health professions have not kept pace with changing demographics may be an even greater cause of disparities in health access and outcomes than the persistent lack of health insurance for tens of millions of Americans.”
And a 2015 study commissioned by the American Hospital Association found that: “Hospitals and health systems have a great opportunity to improve the health of the individuals and communities they serve by eliminating health care disparities by increasing the collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference (REAL) data; increasing cultural competency training; and increasing diversity in leadership and governance.” (Source: Diversities and Disparities: A Benchmarking Study of U.S. Hospitals in 2015.)
It seems clear that as the United States becomes a more diverse place, the healthcare industry has an opportunity, and a responsibility, to reflect diversity for the good of us all. At Jordan Search Consultants, offering strategic consultation for creating and implementing inclusive recruitment solutions is a top priority. By providing clients with a diverse pool of premium candidates, we are moving one step closer to a more inclusive healthcare system.
A female cardiologist’s guide to combating gender inequality through advocacy
The following is written by Dr. Toniya Singh, M.D., F.A.C.C., whom we are honored to call a friend and colleague, and has been featured in St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Women’s Journal. Dr. Singh is an invasive, non-interventional cardiologist and a managing partner at St. Louis Heart and Vascular. She is also the founding President of the Missouri chapter of Women in Cardiology (WIC) section of The American College of Cardiology and board member of the American Heart Association.
“You’re not a feminist. You’re an individualist.”
My son recently said this to me, and it made me think. His explanation was that I am an advocate for the individual rights and remunerations of a person based on his or her independent actions, regardless of gender.
I dislike arguing about the definitions of feminism versus individualism or discussing which movement is more valid. I am well aware of the many nuances that inherently come with each ideology, and I believe that feminists and individualists all over the world have made—and continue to make—this world a better place. But I have never liked labels because labels don’t matter—facts do. And here is a sobering one: Women are not treated as equals in the workplace. Despite the monumental progress that has been made throughout history, women’s earnings and career advancements continue to trail those of men with comparable education and experience.
I see this firsthand; only 12% of the cardiologists nationwide are female and I’m one of them. According to an American College of Cardiology Survey, 63 percent of my female peers have experienced discrimination in the workplace, such as receiving a lower salary than others in their cohort or being passed up for promotion.
The statistics are similar across industries; the Census Bureau calculates that the average woman in the United States makes 79 cents for every dollar paid to a male counterpart. In top corporate positions, specifically, a recent study found that there’s a sizable gender gap both in terms of the number of female executives (18 percent gap) and how much money they make compared to men (27 percent gap).
Medicine is not exempt—and is the industry with which I am most familiar. Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., conducted a study which provided evidence that gender differences in compensation continue to exist in academic medicine. Jagsi states that, “efforts to investigate the mechanisms by which these gender differences develop and ways to mitigate their effects merit continued attention.”
I feel compelled to do just that—investigate ways to mitigate gender disparity in cardiology and in the workplace in general. Despite the fact that more CEOs, heads of state, and university leaders are committing themselves to gender-equality goals than ever, progress remains slow. This is why I’m not concerned with labels. I’m not interested in complaining about the opportunities that my female peers and I have not been given. And I am certainly not here to label society as unfair or demand help.
As a solution-oriented person, I am much more interested in the answers to these questions: Did the women who have experienced pay inequality ever ask to get paid better? Did they negotiate as fiercely as their male counterparts? More importantly, were they given the tools and confidence to do so?
What I’m here to do is empower women to be their own advocates.
It’s time to change the conversation. It’s time to teach the next generation of women that the more we accept personal responsibility for our own lives, the more successful we can be. It’s time to stop labeling and start acting.
Here’s how you can become your own best advocate:
- Be informed. Whether you’re negotiating salary or asking for a promotion, it’s important to know what those in similar positions are making and what kind of experience they have. While your peers don’t necessarily define your worth, having this information in your back pocket—should you need it—makes for a much more compelling argument. There are plenty of resources online that allow you to research median salaries for almost any position in every industry. Or, better yet, ask your more experienced colleagues. You’d be surprised at how many women are willing to discuss these things openly in order to help younger generations succeed.
- Be confident. It’s been said that men will apply for a job if they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women will only apply if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications. What does that tell us? Women need to be more confident in their abilities. You have trained hard, you are capable, and you bring value to the market. You know your worth, so stand firm when articulating it.
- Be realistic. Earning the respect you deserve is one thing, but getting what you want just because you want it is entirely different. Be honest with yourself—you can’t negotiate if you don’t have the required experience or skillsets. It’s also important to understand that you can’t have it all. In an ideal world, we would all have time for our careers and families and social life and hobbies. But realistically, work-life balance comes at a cost. You won’t get paid for 50 hours when you only work 30, no matter how talented you may be. You must be realistic about your own priorities and capacity before demanding more.
- Operate under the assumption that you are being treated as an equal. During any conversation about advancing your career, your goals and skillsets should be your main arguing points. Don’t even bring gender into the equation. If you want to be treated as an equal, it’s best to operate under the assumption that everyone already sees you as an equal. Conversely, know that no one has the right to ask you any gender-biased questions in a professional setting. There is rarely a reason for you to discuss your children, relationship, or plans for pregnancy while applying for a job or negotiating a raise.
- Find a mentor/sponsor. There is perhaps nothing more valuable than soaking up the wisdom of others who have been in your position or who are in a position in which you want to be. And having an ally who is invested in your career will only increase your chance for success. Finding the right mentor or sponsor doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating. Start by making a list of people whose career track you’d like to follow, and reach out to them. If no one comes to mind—get out there and network. And remember, your mentor and sponsor may be the same person or different people, and you may have various expectations from them according to the role they are assuming. Keep in mind, too, that as your career goals and plans change, so may your mentors and sponsors.
- Take risks. In her Ted Talk, Reshma Saujani explains that most girls are taught to avoid risk and failure in order to pursue perfection, while boys are taught to take risks and be brave. “And by the time they’re adults,” Saujani says, “whether they’re negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, they’re habituated to take risk after risk. They’re rewarded for it.” The lesson to be learned here is that in order to get what you want, you must get comfortable being uncomfortable. Taking risks will always get you further than the “be complacent and complain”.
- Tune out negativity. Ruth Bader, the second female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, recently published an article in which she explained how she has been so successful in a male-driven world. One piece of advice she offers is that “it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.” She explains that when a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, it’s best to tune it out because reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade. I couldn’t agree more with Ruth. No matter how far you make it your career, there will always be someone who is convinced you don’t belong there. Rather than telling them why you do, let this serve as motivation to climb even higher.
- Take action. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard female colleagues complain that they are never given the opportunity to be in a position of authority. Yet, when industry organizations are seeking volunteer speakers or representatives, they are not the first to volunteer. If you want to be respected, you must put yourself in a position that demands respect. Volunteer. Be responsive. Put yourself out there. Let the world know that you will be taken seriously.
It is not easy, but nothing good ever is.
My hope today is that every woman, at every stage in her career, will adopt this mindset of empowerment. Let’s empower each other. Passing on opportunities (that may not be right for us, in the moment) to other competent, capable women allows us to empower them, which puts us in a position of power as well. Let’s teach the next generation that they need not be defined by gender disparities in the workplace, but rather their talent and willingness to succeed. Let’s effectively advocate for ourselves, take risks, and take action.
‘Tis the season of flashing lights, jingle bells, and long lines of little ones waiting to sit on Santa’s lap. For some children, this holiday scene is a dream come true—but for those who have autism, the sensory overload can be too much to bear. That’s why Jordan Search Consultants was so delighted to partner with the Thompson Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders this year in offering “sensory friendly” visits with Santa for families affected by autism.
The first annual Santa in St. Louis event was held at Mercy Kids Autism Center and gave individuals with autism and their families the opportunity to visit with Santa without having to endure loud, long lines. Extra care was taken to support the sensory, physical, and other developmental needs of the children so they could enjoy this holiday tradition. As a sponsor, the JSC team had the honor of shopping for personalized gifts for each child and their siblings, and providing food and beverages for the event. The children also received a CD of photos from their visit, courtesy of our partner, marketing and communications firm Arco + Associates, so they can look back on the special memory for years to come.
While it filled us with joy to give back to such deserving families, the most heartwarming part of the day was experiencing the bliss that each family felt as they entered the room. Many of the parents expected to leave with only candid photos, assuming a traditional picture on Santa’s knee might make their child uncomfortable. Instead, almost every family was pleasantly surprised to enter the room and see their child run straight to Santa with glee. The experience was overwhelmingly positive for everyone involved. We are so proud to be a part of the St. Louis healthcare community and look forward to continuing to embrace the families that make our community so wonderfully diverse.
In recent years, electronic health records (EHRs) have come to the forefront of the United States healthcare reform. An EHR is defined as an electronic record of patient health information generated by one or more encounters in any care delivery setting. Included in this information are patient demographics, progress notes, problems, medications, vital signs, past medical history, immunizations, laboratory data, and radiology reports. While the benefits of transforming the healthcare system from a mostly paper-based industry to a digital one are many, there are still critics—and for good reason.
Below are some of the pros and cons of EHRs:
- Enhanced collaboration. In the era of clinically-integrated care, it is imperative that doctors, hospitals, and labs are able to share a mutual patient’s health information with each other—digitally, in real time—so that they can work more effectively as a team. This means that each provider can more easily stay in the loop on illnesses, treatments, and surgeries, thus mitigating errors and improving quality care.
- Access to information. Medical advancement is largely dependent on research. Digital records—as opposed to handwritten—inherently lead to increased legibility and comprehensiveness. This makes it easier for researchers to access information, identify subjects, track quality of care, and conduct essential research.
- Patient education. In the future, patients are expected to be able to view EHRs from their own devices, enabling the population to stay better informed about their own health. By logging into a patient portal, patients would be able to see the results of a recent lab test, for example, or find out when they last had a tetanus shot.
- Wasted time. The Annals of Internal Medicine published a new study showing that physicians spend 49.2 percent of their work days on “EHR and desk work” compared with just 27 percent of their in-office hours on “direct clinical face time” with patients. Considering 97 percent of our Nation’s hospitals and three-quarters of doctors are using EHRs, that’s quite a bit of wasted time…time that could potentially be better spent practicing their craft.
- Physician burnout. According to research in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the hours upon hours of EHR data entry are taking a toll on physicians. The heavier workload has been proven to be a major factor in physician burnout. As the physician shortage is expected to continue, critics of EHRs argue that we need to mitigate any factors that could contribute to the early retirement of doctors.
- Privacy concerns. As with any online digital format, concerns of breach exist. EHRs are full of personal data such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and health insurance numbers—all of which could lead to identity theft if in the hands of the wrong person. In addition, concern lies within the conversion from a paper-based filing system to an EHR, as there is a potential for misplacement of data throughout the process.
When weighing the pros and cons of EHRs, it’s important to remember that the healthcare industry is a colossal one, and any type of reform—good or bad—will take time. There will be a learning curve. It has been less than a decade since EHRs have become widely adopted by healthcare organizations across the nation, so only time will tell whether the benefits will outweigh the drawbacks in the long run.