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On a sunny afternoon in May, 2015, I joined a dozen other surgeons at a downtown Boston office building to begin sixteen hours of mandatory computer training.We sat in three rows, each of us parked behind a desktop computer.Many of the angriest complaints, however, were due to problems rooted in what Sumit Rana, a senior vice-president at Epic, called “the Revenge of the Ancillaries.” In building a given function—say, an order form for a brain MRI—the design choices were more political than technical: administrative staff and doctors had different views about what should be included. But Epic had arranged meetings to try to adjudicate these differences.
Yet somehow we’ve reached a point where people in the medical profession actively, viscerally, volubly hate their computers. My hospital and clinics reduced the number of admissions and appointment slots for two weeks while the staff navigated the new system.
For another two weeks, my department doubled the time allocated for appointments and procedures in order to accommodate our learning curve.
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.
“The first week,” he told me, “people say, ‘How am I going to get through this?
’ At a year, they say, ‘I wish you could do this and that.’ ”I saw what he meant.
Questions that doctors had routinely skipped now stopped them short, with “field required” alerts.
A simple request might now involve filling out a detailed form that took away precious minutes of time with patients.
I learned during the next few sessions that each instructor had developed his or her own way of dealing with the hostile rabble.
One was encouraging and parental, another unsmiling and efficient.