As technology evolves, employers are becoming increasingly attracted to the idea of replacing humans with technology. On the surface, this looks quite lucrative as a potential cost-cutting measure, despite the massive investment required to implement very complex systems. We must ask, however, whether technological solutions really offer the benefits that they claim, and also what impacts they have on the staff who remain. In this blog, we look at some evidence from the famous Mayo Clinic’s rollout of “EPIC”, an Electronic Health Record System, over the past 18 months.
One effect of implementing an EHRS, is that the medical practitioner will tend to do more of the data input directly into the system. In the case of the Mayo Clinic, this has seen the workload for their highly skilled and experienced medical transcriptionists (many of whom work from home) reduced dramatically, to the point where many have been offered separation packages. This sees transcriptionists emerge as major losers in the new structure.
What is more alarming, however, is that an important layer of quality control also disappears along with the transcriptionists. In the past, a doctor would take notes during their consultation and pass them to the transcriptionists, whose critical eye would review the content and identify errors as those notes were entered into the system. When doctors enter data directly this layer of validation is removed, and the pressure on doctors to be mistake-free increases. Mayo Clinic transcriptionists are on-record as having identified transposition of numbers in medical results, incorrect data, and other potentially life-threatening errors, while carrying out their role. From this alone, it is clear that the doctor and patient can also become victims of technology, rather than beneficiaries.
A common argument in favour of technological solutions is that technology will “eliminate human error”, however we would argue that it is more likely to “eliminate human oversight”, and allow errors to be propagated with fewer layers of scrutiny. Sadly, in the medical sector, these failings are often only fully appreciated in the shadow of tragedy, and the 20:20 hindsight that it provides. While the ultimate results of the Mayo Clinic’s technological evolution are yet to be fully revealed, there will surely be challenges ahead.
At TTP, we passionately believe that our team of transcriptionists, backed by the critical eyes of our proofreaders, allow us to provide a service that technological solutions simply cannot match.
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