For more than a decade, Healthcare Informatics has honored those at the forefront of healthcare IT innovation with its Innovator Awards Program. As read in our January issue this year, the Healthcare Informatics Innovator Awards Program again recognized leadership teams from patient care organizations that have effectively deployed information technology in order to improve clinical, administrative, financial, or organizational performance. The Program also distinguishes vendor solution providers that have helped their clients shine in enhancing clinician workflow, exchanging data, or cutting down costs.
Indeed, this year the Innovator Awards program included two tracks for innovation recognition—one for healthcare provider organizations and one for technology solution providers, allowing both sides of the health IT spectrum to submit their examples of transformation. All vendor submissions were given to a selection of Healthcare Informatics expert editorial board members for careful review. The list of all provider and vendor winners in this year’s program could be seen right here.
Over the next few days, Healthcare Informatics will give readers the stories of the four vendor winners in the three above-mentioned categories. These technology solution providers are truly blazing the trail for innovation in the health IT vendor market, and we are proud to honor those whose combination of expertise and innovation are shaping the future of healthcare systems.
The 2017 co-winner in the category of Clinician Workflow is Skywriter MD, a Westminster, Colo.-based company that offers a real-time virtual medical scribe service. President and CEO of Skywriter MD, Tracy Rue, spoke with Healthcare Informatics about how technology can lead to provider burn-out—and why virtual scribes can not only assist with improving care but also lowering patient costs.
Tell me about Skywriter MD’s vision for clinician workflow in healthcare.
Tracy Rue: Skywriter MD was born to assist providers—not only to document encounters but also to do all the work that’s required to keep up with the demands of electronic health records (EHRs). It’s a solution that takes the “doc” out of documentation, so to speak. And in doing so, it increases efficiencies and access to care but also betters that provider’s lifestyle. Skywriter MD takes them away from having to be data entry clerks—and also takes the computer away from between them and their patients.
To that end, our vision is to make the workflow more efficient. Having a virtual scribe allows providers to reduce the number of strokes and clicks required across the work day. Studies currently show that physicians are pounding on a keyboard 30 to 50 percent of their working time, depending on their specialty. Is that really the best use of their time? By providing a virtual medical scribe, we can save a physician at a minimum two to three minutes per encounter—which adds up to 60 to 90 minutes of workload per day. The provider then has that time to spend more time with patients as needed and to better their lifestyle by allowing them to go home by 6:00 p.m. instead of 8:00 p.m. each night.
It allows physicians to increase access to care all while reducing their work demand—and it takes the computer out from between them and their patients.
How do you see the competitive marketplace in the clinician workflow area?
This is definitely a market that is growing rapidly. Everyone is looking for a solution to help deal with documentation, whether you are a physician in a private practice or a large health system. EHRs are great but they do add quite a few pain points to providers.
Let’s face it: a physician really only has three choices about when to document an encounter. The first is during the patient visit. And no one likes that—not the patient, not the provider, and most healthcare organizations don’t like it either. So then physicians could document in between patient visits. But that, of course, decreases the efficiency of the practice. If the provider is spending five to ten minutes in between appointments, that provider is decreasing the access to care. The third option is doing documentation after hours. And this is when a lot of physicians do it. They document their entire day at 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. before they go home. Trying to remember everything that happened or inputting all the things from their notes in structured form—well, it’s something that wears on them over time. It not only interferes with their family life but it also starts to interfere with their love of practice as well.
So what Skywriter does is make it easier for providers to document. It could be as simple as going through their inbox and pointing and clicking to create the necessary action items. And what we see is a huge return on investment but in terms of provider satisfaction—they can go home and see their family at a reasonable hour—but we also see that ROI in terms of time saved and increased patient satisfaction.
To what do you attribute Skywriter MD’s success?
Skywriter MD was conceived by physicians for physicians. Our goal is to transform patient care, provider lifestyle, and, of course, the financials. And our success comes from our physician focus. We want to help providers so they can, in turn, do the best job and really focus on the patient—not a computer screen.
When you look at the needs of the industry, you see that human component coming up again and again. There’s no machine that can assess a patient like a provider can and offer the right intervention. But there is a way to help those providers better input data into the EHR structure. And that’s what we do.
First and foremost, Skywriter MD offers providers a U.S.-based highly trained Scribe (skywriter). We have a team concept. And that concept allows our solution to become much more efficient than typical scribes. Our Skywriters can reduce the overall cost by as much as 75 percent. But, second, Skywriter MD takes away the intrusive nature of medical scribes. And we do that by using a technological medium. Third, our team concept gives us the ability to virtualize and find the talent wherever they happen to live. They may be college students or even medical students—the best and brightest assistance providers we can find—and we can link them up with any provider. Together, it makes a big difference and takes the challenges away for the provider.
What is your vision for the future—both in terms of challenges and opportunities—when it comes to clinician workflow?
The need for virtual scribes is growing rapidly. And our concept, where we collaborate with providers for accuracy, is important. Most people who are in this space—or who want to get into this space—know that the future is as much about the people as the technology. There may be some future where machines can enter data in a structured format, in a voice like real people, but we’re not there yet. So having the ability to use this solution to help improve patient workflow is something that makes for not only better healthcare for the patient—but also a better lifestyle for the provider.