A Physician’s Bill of Rights

Jeff Atwood wrote “The Programmer’s Bill of Rights” a couple of years back, and it’s entirely applicable to physicians using electronic health care records, so I paraphrased it here for our domain. Here goes.

It’s unbelievable to me that a hospital or a healthcare organisation would pay a doctor more than $100,000 in salary, yet cripple him or her with terrible computing hardware and software. This makes no business or medical sense whatsoever. And yet I see it all the time. It’s shocking how many physicians aren’t provided with the essential things they need to succeed and to treat patients.

I propose we adopt a Physician’s Bill of Rights To Computing, protecting the rights of doctors by preventing their organisations from denying them the fundamentals they need to do their job.

  1. Every physician shall have two monitors
    With the low prices of LCDs and the ubiquity of dual-output video cards, you’d be crazy to limit your doctors to a single screen. The productivity benefits, and the improvement in digesting information, are obvious by now.
  2. Every physician shall have a fast PC
    Doctors are required to run a lot of software to get their jobs done: electronic medical records, pharmacy web interfaces, clinical guidelines, lab software, electronic dictation UI, and not least, Lotus Notes. Running all this software requires a fast PC with lots of memory. The faster a doctor’s PC is, the faster he can cycle through the EHR, prescription, messaging, and clinical guidelines. Time spent staring at a frozen desktop is wasted time.
  3. Every doctor shall have a comfortable chair
    Let’s face it. We make our lvings largely by sitting on our butts for 8 hours a day or more. Why not spend it in a comfortable, well-designed chair, instead of the broken down surplus junk most of us try to avoid falling out of. Sure, you hire doctors primarily for their giant brains and knowledge, but don’t forget their other assets.
  4. Every doctor shall have a fast network connection
    Good doctors use the network all the time. Whenever your doctor has to wait for servers and network responses, he’s losing concentration and time.
  5. Every doctor shall have software suitable to his work
    This is the most important of all these points and the most obvious. Without the right software, your doctors can’t do a good job and you’re wasting money, time, and the patient’s health this way.

These points aren’t extravagant demands. They’re fundamental to the quality of work life for a physician. If the organisation you work for isn’t getting this right, making it right is neither expensive nor difficult. Demand your rights as a physician! And remember: you can either change your organisation, or change your job.