What happens when an ER goes digital?

Now here’s some thought for food. The way I remember hospital ER (or A&E, depending on the country you are in) rooms is you enter, find the desk, explain your issue, someone hands you a giant pile of paperwork to fill out with a pen, you fill in, hand the paper back in, wait… wait for a few hours and a lot of other discomfort ensues.

But on a recent experience I noticed there was no paperwork. Best of all, I wasn’t the patient. Still, no more filling in 30 pages of paper listing when your last menstrual discharge was or if you experience dark urine etc, when you’re in for let’s say a broken leg or chest pain. No paperwork is good, right? For my point of view, it’s good. Also if there is paperwork to be filled out, as long as the customers can fill out the forms online, ideally using their own devices so they can use the accessibility features they want and need, it’s even better. But when filling in the data involves a person carrying the cart (some kind of windows tablet that needs a cart, with the person explaining how to use it “sign here, and over there … and there”), that leaves a gray area. Sign here? Sign what? Sorry, *I* can’t read that. What am I signing here? Can you read the whole document for me please, or use the technology so I can figure out what I’m signing as I know to not sign things I haven’t read or can’t read. See… there we have it. Fortunately the person I was with has a good set of eyes, so he not only could read what was “over there” on the screen and then sign “there, and there”, and is also less frustrated by having to sign things you haven’t/can’t read. If I was the patient, there would have been some serious accessibility issues. And probably legal. When things are supposed to be accessible, make them accessible. It’s also not always the customer’s duty to inform about an accessibility need.

A second observation is of the way people talk. Since I was with a person with a regular eyesight and with much less medical history of their eyeballs than mine, it also means the doctors would listen to the patient, and talk with the patient, instead of talking with the “caregiver”, or talking at the patient or about the patient, forgetting that they can hear very well not only what you are saying about them right in front of them, but also who you are saying the things to, in which direction and so on. Why is this relevant? Because that’s what is supposed to happen. If you are the doctor, you introduce your name and function, and talk to the customer (patient, but I prefer customer since it’s USA), not to their assumed caregiver. Not to the caregiver, not at the customer, and not about the customer to their assumed caregiver. It should be pretty elementary, but I’ve (air quotes) seen (end air quotes) it done very wrong. Seen, as in heard it all.

The paperless forms that are probably accessibleish and that aren’t ever introduced as in “here is the URL, fill it in” can probably lead to some interesting results from the legal point of view. Do I even need to throw in any scenarios?


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