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Curb digital fatigue to improve healthcare efficiency

Article-Curb digital fatigue to improve healthcare efficiency

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The human aspect in medical innovations is key to defeating digital fatigue in healthcare systems.

The healthcare industry has been welcoming digital transformation globally. This pace of digital technology adoption in healthcare systems has witnessed further amplification with the pandemic in recent times.

Their integration is unfolding several benefits for patients and clinicians alike. After all, digi-health tools empower patients to take responsibility for their health and assist clinicians in delivering excellent treatment. They present many benefits, like simplifying, anticipating, and averting life-threatening situations through timely actions. When Mercy Hospital introduced virtual healthcare almost a decade ago, it successfully reduced hospitalisations by nearly 50 per cent, reflecting the value of digitally transforming healthcare.

Despite these apparent benefits, digitisation in healthcare comes with its challenges. A key one is causing burnout among healthcare providers.

The Cognition Crisis with digi-health tools

As neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley puts it, excess screen time and corresponding information overload often result in a cognition crisis with digital fatigue and stress as a consequence. This is true for healthcare professionals with digitised healthcare systems.

Digital systems, by design, fuel an enormous flow of data from the patient, making it difficult for the healthcare system to balance patients and administration efficiently. Consequently, healthcare professionals often spend more time on data entry than treating patients. In addition, they are not even always prepared or well-trained in using these methods, adding to the complication. As a result, there is often widespread digital fatigue that counterproductively results in less than the best possible care.

According to several surveys, 31.6 per cent of physicians regularly report symptoms of burnout, while more than half say those symptoms have increased since the onset of the current public health crisis.

Examining the ground reality

Contrary to layman’s perception, digital burnout among healthcare professionals is not a COVID-led phenomenon that recently fuelled rapid digitisation. Even before the pandemic, it was prevalent, with over 60 per cent of physicians reporting at least one symptom of burnout. COVID-19 only aggregated it.

Today, after facing the worst of the pandemic, clinicians still find themselves swamped and unable to keep up with digital innovations. The “why” behind this becomes apparent in the words of Ashwini Zenooz, Chief Medical Office and General Manager, Salesforce Inc:

“…Most of the technology we use in provider systems, like EHRs, did not have front-line workers and clinicians at the table when developing these workflows.”

The solution to winning over digital fatigue

Defeating digital fatigue in healthcare systems is possible by keeping the human aspect central to healthcare innovations. Some actionable ways to that end include:

Involving clinicians closely when designing digital health interventions: Unless healthcare professionals have a say in how using a particular technology will impact their routine healthcare work, it can be tough to defeat digital fatigue.

This is particularly important when designing digital alternatives for use cases in situations like patient monitoring. For example, suppose the tool only allows the recording of medical parameters, not qualitative information, like the patient looking pale. In that case, it can get cumbersome for clinicians to note and remember this important information separately.

Benchmarking solid safety thresholds: The use of technology in healthcare is not always fail-safe. Sometimes, the technology raises false alarms by design, compelling clinicians to be over-alert even when the situation doesn’t demand it. Unfortunately, this also causes immense fatigue and stress among healthcare workers, hampering their calm. With proper safety guidelines in the design of digital health tools, healthcare practitioners can overcome this problem and accept technology adoption universally.

Following patient-centric approaches: Virtual care must be designed around patient usage and preferences. Without involving the patient opinions, solutions cannot support them while optimising administrative workflow for clinicians. Mutual cooperation between both is necessary for success and ease.

Aiding care teams: Reimagining the composition of care teams also helps. For example, by supporting medical staff with resources like data interpreters and scribes, clinicians can get additional bandwidth to focus on treatments and their patients. This can reduce their digital fatigue significantly.


Digital transformation in healthcare is a welcome change to bring about unthinkable developments and improvements in how patient care is delivered. Yet, despite widespread technological progress, there are teething troubles to encounter with digital healthcare tools today.

Digital fatigue is a key one that impacts the well-being of the carers and the quality of care they can deliver. Thus, digi-health tool providers need to seriously consider ways to combat it to ensure its widespread use over the long term along with the deepening of its benefits.


This article appears in Omnia Health magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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