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ASAP resident, Dr. Sunny Lou, awarded AMA grant to improve clinician efficiency and patient outcomes

Clinicians can spend up to 50 percent of their time engaging in communication with other clinical providers to coordinate patient care. Inter-professional communication (i.e., between physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers) is an essential component of clinical work. In fact, effective inter-disciplinary teamwork and coordination has been associated with improved clinician efficiency and improved patient outcomes, whereas poor communication has been implicated in up to two-thirds of medical errors and sentinel patient safety events.

Sunny Lou, MD, PhD, an Academic Scholars Advancement Program (ASAP) resident and Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, recently submitted a proposal to measure inpatient clinician work patterns and inter-professional communication to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Electronic Health Record (EHR) use Metrics Research Project.

The purpose of the AMA EHR use Metrics Research is to advance the science on the use of EHR data to identify patterns of use that may detract from patient care of EHR efficiency, contribute to burnout or stress, or inform decisions about workflow, teamwork, and resource allocation at practice level.

“I think that this proposal would not have happened without the support of the ASAP training pathway, which provided me with the protected research time to develop this line of inquiry,” says Dr. Lou.

Dr. Lou, the principal investigator, and her mentor and co-investigator, Thomas Kannampallil, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Associate Chief Research Information Officer at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, were awarded $50,000 in funding to use toward developing metrics specifically regarding Epic Secure Chat— a platform that allows users to send secure text messages to colleagues in real-time from a mobile device or desktop computer. “Despite its rapid adoption, the effects of such tools on clinical work patterns have been poorly studied,” says Dr. Lou. “In addition, the benefits and potential unintended consequences of Secure Chat use are not well-understood.” Dr. Lou and her team will measure its use within the EHR, and its effects on teamwork, cognition burden, and workplace communication.

Image source: “Overview of Secure Chat” by Epic Systems. This is an example screenshot that does not include actual patient / team data.

This work supports the AMA’s goal to develop EHR-use metrics for the “quantification of practice efficiency and teamwork.” Dr. Lou and Dr. Kannampallil will receive the one-year grant in early summer. “If we are successful, it would be great to scale up to a larger study across multiple clinical sites,” says Dr. Lou.

“We are lucky to have such dedicated physician-scientists like Dr. Lou who are committed to bettering our processes and systems, and we look forward to watching her research unfold,” says Dr. Kannampallil, PhD.