by adgrooms on May 8, 2019

Time is money. With the implementation of EHRs, a doctor's workflow has changed drastically since the time of paper records. Doctors are expected to maintain the same volume of patients while navigating and logging more information than ever in a cumbersome EHR system. Can we quantify the wasting of time among the healthcare front lines?

Before anything happens in the EHR, you have to log in. Logging in takes time. If a doctor isn’t lugging around their own laptop, they will have to log into a computer in the room. In a typical round, they might have 20 patients to see. Gregory Schmidt, M.D. did some research and came up with a 3 minute average login time and some take up to 5 minutes! Even if we consider faster computers, network, and software, a 30 second login time adds up quickly when you calculate for the one million doctors in the United States. And we are not talking about one login at the start of the workday. To protect patient data, doctors are logging in and out all day long.

The problem is worse. Often a provider is using an array of apps in tandem with the EHR, each one with its own username and password. Having to log in to all of these, multiple times a day takes a tremendous amount of time. At a minimum, the hospital should implement single sign-on (SSO), which is a system that consolidates access to all enabled systems into a single username and password. One not so recent study found that moving to SSO could save a hospital over 1400 hours per year across medical and ancillary staff. This resulted in an estimated savings of over $90K per year for each participating hospital.

Even faster, and built upon single sign-on, are physical access tokens. One example of a physical access token is a USB PKI device, such as YubiKey. To use it, the physician would plug the device into the USB port, touch it to confirm their physical presence and be instantly logged in to all SSO enabled software.

Faster still, are scanning technologies, which can log a person in just by their close physical proximity, similar to how modern car keys work. Some even save the state of the desktop as a provider moves from room to room, saving even more time having to locate where they left off.

Evolving fingerprint, eye scan, and voice recognition technology could also be implemented in the future to make logging in even more secure and efficient. The cost of adding these systems would quickly pay for itself in time savings alone, not to mention reduced burnout and increased quality of care.