- 63 percent of respondents said they spend 25 percent to 75 percent of their time on paperwork (red flag No. 1 that paper records are the problem, not the solution);
- 80 percent still use paper records despite having or building a digital records system (red flag No. 2: a compulsion that requires you to double your work in order to avoid losing a system you already understand to one whose value you can not yet judge is a clinical symptom, not a positive characteristic of a clinician's work);
- 78 percent believe the upcoming reforms in healthcare regulation will not reduce the volume of their paperwork (not so much a red flag as ignorant pessimism; the regulations aren't final yet, so it's impossible to know what the implementation will look like, especially when hordes of buzz kill are dragging their feet on the digital systems that might make their lives a little easier if they could ever be finished).
I won't be pedantic enough to point out that Anoto sells digital-paper systems designed to let clinicians work under the illusion that they haven't modernized while adding a completely extraneous set of products designed to convert their quill-and-vellum chickenscratch into something anyone else can read, and maybe store in something other than a long hallway stacked head-high with filing cabinets.
I will mention that even the Anoto survey included a question that allowed 90 percent of the change-resistant tribe of clinicians to admit that (scientific data eventually being too thick to deny) that digital patient records do ultimately improve patient care.
Almost 50 percent said their interest in digital pen-and-paper systems – that is, being able to benefit from the conversion to digital records without the trouble of doing it themselves – was an 8 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10.
And that, in brief, is the internally conflicted U.S. healthcare industry: so heavily technologized that, amid the welter of test results and insurer "recommended" best-practices, there's no time to ask patients how they're doing or what's wrong.
But the doctors and administrators who make the system move invested so much time and effort in learning the intricacies of the paperwork maze that learning the business of medicine was nearly as much work as learning how to practice it. Giving up a familiarly arcane system for a simpler one is such a huge personal conversion many will do almost anything do avoid it.
For decades, they did just that.
So did the rest of us, though only because we had no choice.
The U.S. medical industry is finally dragging itself into the 21 st century, though just barely.