How Windows 8 Could Break Through the Health IT Productivity Paradox and Transform the Practice of Medicine

13 November 2012 | Dr. Dennis Schmuland, Chief health strategy officer, U.S. Health and Life Sciences, Microsoft
Getting From PieceWork to High-Performance Team Work
In late October, we announced the global availability of the Windows 8 operating system complete with features that enable improved productivity, team collaboration, and security for health organizations. Regardless of whether you are a provider, payer, HHS or life sciences organization, in this value-based health economy, chances are good that your labor costs are rising, your operational budgets are shrinking, your reimbursements are dropping, and the regulatory complexities of doing business have become mind-numbing.
 
Which means that more than ever before, the success of healthcare organizations is determined by the productivity of your people and the ability of staff to work together as virtual, high performance teams to improve the quality, safety, speed and outcomes of care at lower cost.
 
But improving productivity and team performance seems to be much harder and costly than it should be, despite IT investments in EHR solutions. In fact, the $27 billion federal incentives to drive the adoption of health IT under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 has driven EHR adoption to an all-time high: 55 percent of providers have adopted an EHR system and one-half of those who haven't plan to do so sometime this year, according to the CDC 2011 Physician Workflow Study.
 
In contrast to other industries, productivity in the health industry has been declining, despite these massive investments in IT. A recent comparative analysis of productivity by industry showed that unlike virtually every other sector in the U.S. economy, healthcare has not just lagged other sectors in productivity gains, but has actually experienced a decline 0.6 percent in productivity every year over the past 20 years. This puzzling correlation between a rapid increase in IT use in the health industry and arrested productivity has become known as the "Health IT Productivity Paradox."
 
Early attempts to solve the Health IT Productivity Paradox: Tablets to the rescue
 
Most physicians and nurses I talk to tell me the explanation for this paradox is simple: they're spending more time entering data and less time with patients and collaborating with colleagues. Nurses in the 2011 Jackson Healthcare Survey, 80 percent of which used EHRs, said they spend 25 percent of their shifts on paperwork and entering orders. Additionally, they still need to manage many of their tasks and records on paper.
 
In search of innovative ways to break free of the HIT-productivity paradox, many physicians have turned to iPad tablets as a way to be more productive when they are mobile. Manhattan Research found that 62 percent of physicians now own a tablet and half of those physicians use them to access records and enter new information about patients.
 
But most physicians will tell you that their tablets fall far short in the full functionality they need, forcing a hard choice that health professionals never wanted to make. Instead of one device, they now need two: a companion tablet AND a primary PC, each with its own unique look, feel, apps, and experience. In fact, according to a recent survey by Spyglass Consulting, despite widespread use of iPads by physicians, 83% percent of them are still using desktop computers as their primary device for accessing corporate assets and patient data whether they’re at the hospital, in their office, or at home. They now need to juggle two devices (actually three if you add their cell phone) that span different platforms as they move between patients, rooms, facilities, labs, the office, and home. This results in device fatigue, the cost in time, productivity, communications, and team work that comes from juggling and constant switching between unintegrated devices.
 
Lastly, nearly every health care organization is struggling with the hidden costs of integration and the security and compliance risks related to supporting and securing iPads. Hospital CIOs tell us that deploying iPads in hospital settings adds new issues for IT to deal with, such as help desk support, limited data entry, hidden licensing costs for virtualization software, lack of native encryption, inability to run core applications, lack of multiple user logins, printer and device incompatibility, inability to dock, missing USB ports, keyboards, and mice, durability, and sanitization issues.
 
The bottom line is simple: Revenue- and productivity-challenged healthcare organizations cannot afford to juggle between an un-integrated companion device and their primary device. Every minute spent logging on, logging off, rekeying, and switching devices and applications is a distraction and one less minute focused on team performance, business results and patient care.
In my opinion, the attraction of tablets to health professionals and the shortcomings of tablets they’ve had to put up with are merely symptomatic that the HIT vendor community has not yet been able to adequately meet the 5 critical needs of health professionals: mobility, communications, collaboration, team workflow, and decision support. Until now, that is.
 
The Windows 8 difference: One no-compromise experience to run all the apps that health professionals need on a variety of devices
 
Windows 8 was precisely designed to address these needs. With Windows 8, healthcare organizations no longer have to compromise between the productivity of a PC and the convenience of a tablet.
 
By bringing multi-touch and pen to tablets, laptops, and desktops, Windows 8 devices can now double as consumer devices that can meet the fastidious productivity, collaboration, privacy, security, and compliance demands of the health & life sciences industry. To maximize productivity and team performance, Windows 8 gives health professionals a stable, secure and consistent experience across tablets, ultrabooks, convertibles, desktops, all-in-ones, wall displays, workstations on wheels, and phones. This boosts productivity and relieves device fatigue by reducing time and focus wasted swiveling between a hodgepodge of interfaces and applications as professionals move between tablet, laptop, workstations, and phones.
 
In fact, the advantages of a unified experience across desktops, laptops, phones and tablets is likely to be the main reason why a recent survey by iYogi Insights found that 38 percent of small businesses that already had an iPad said they are considering switching to Windows 8. And an even higher number of Android-based tablet users, 45 percent, are considering migrating to Windows 8 tablets.
 
Because health & life science professionals need to consume and create content and collaborate with team members on the move and under a multitude of environments, our customers tell us they plan to take advantage of every data input option that Windows 8 offers: touch, keyboard, mouse, voice, and pen, a must where clinician and patient signatures are required by law. Additionally, Windows 8 device USB support enables professionals to not only talk to their device but also talk through their device with a Bluetooth ear piece through unified communications (Lync) which means that mutli-disciplinary teams can continuously communicate with each other and coordinate care in new ways to improve the quality, safety, speed, and outcomes of care.
 
Lastly, Windows 8 recognizes that a one size device doesn't fit all. Health professionals need devices that meet and adapt to their needs, not the other way around, from sleek and stylish to rugged, sturdy, and resilient to cleansers and disinfectants. With an avalanche of more than 1,000 Windows 8 certified PCs and tablets available as of last week, Windows 8 brings more than enough thinner and lighter than ever devices to meet the unique task or workstyle needs of every enterprise and individual.
 
Because of all these new possibilities for productivity and team performance gains that Windows 8 offers health professionals, Windows 8 appears to have all the makings to break through the HIT productivity paradox and transform the practice of medicine into a patient-centered team sport. For the first time, Windows 8 now makes it possible for virtual, highly mobile teams of nurses, pharmacists, primary care physicians, specialists and insurers to work together in new ways across locations and devices like they’ve never worked before to improve quality, speed, and outcomes of care at a lower cost.
 
Dr. Dennis Schmuland
Chief health strategy officer, U.S. Health and Life Sciences, Microsoft

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About the Author

Dr. Dennis Schmuland | Chief health strategy officer, U.S. Health and Life Sciences, Microsoft

Dr. Dennis Schmuland is the Chief Health Strategy Officer, U.S. Health and Life Sciences, Microsoft. He drives strategy across the US Health sector. Read more