The bulk of the expenses came from lost patient revenues and all the tech-support personnel and other people needed during the implementation phase. Most were basic how-to questions; a few involved major technical glitches. Many patient medications and instructions hadn’t transferred accurately from our old system.
My hospital had to hire hundreds of moonlighting residents and pharmacists to double-check the medication list for every patient while technicians worked to fix the data-transfer problem.
After six months, I’d become fairly proficient with the new software. My laptop was available for checking information and tapping in occasional notes; after the consultation, I completed my office report.
I’d bring my laptop with me to each appointment, open but at my side. Some things were slower than they were with our old system, and some things had improved.
With Epic, paper lab-order slips, vital-signs charts, and hospital-ward records would disappear. But three years later I’ve come to feel that a system that promised to increase my mastery over my work has, instead, increased my work’s mastery over me. A 2016 study found that physicians spent about two hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with a patient—whatever the brand of medical software.
In the examination room, physicians devoted half of their patient time facing the screen to do electronic tasks. The University of Wisconsin found that the average workday for its family physicians had grown to eleven and a half hours.
Rana said that these growing pains were predictable.
The Epic people always build in a period for “optimization”—reconfiguring various functions according to feedback from users.
More than ninety per cent of American hospitals have been computerized during the past decade, and more than half of Americans have their health information in the Epic system.
Seventy thousand employees of Partners Health Care—spread across twelve hospitals and hundreds of clinics in New England—were going to have to adopt the new software.