By Atul Gawande
Important reading for anyone designing software.
Burnout seemed to vary by specialty. Surgical professions such as neurosurgery had especially poor ratings of work-life balance and yet lower than average levels of burnout. Emergency physicians, on the other hand, had a better than average work-life balance but the highest burnout scores. The inconsistencies began to make sense when a team at the Mayo Clinic discovered that one of the strongest predictors of burnout was how much time an individual spent tied up doing computer documentation. Surgeons spend relatively little of their day in front of a computer. Emergency physicians spend a lot of it that way. As digitization spreads, nurses and other health-care professionals are feeling similar effects from being screen-bound.
On the inability of a system to cope with surprises:
Last fall, the night before daylight-saving time ended, an all-user e-mail alert went out. The system did not have a way to record information when the hour from 1 a.m. to 1:59 a.m. repeated in the night. This was, for the system, a surprise event. The only solution was to shut down the lab systems during the repeated hour. Data from integrated biomedical devices (such as monitoring equipment for patients’ vital signs) would be unavailable and would have to be recorded by hand. Fetal monitors in the obstetrics unit would have to be manually switched off and on at the top of the repeated hour.