Fitbit Medicine: Stomp Out Healthcare Inefficiency One Step at a Time

I am certain that we can measure the efficiency of a healthcare system using Fitbit.
Fitbit Medicine: Stomp Out Healthcare Inefficiency One Step at a Time
While reading my Twitter feed yesterday, I noticed healthcare leaders Tweeting about their Fitbit scores and the number of steps they’ve taken while at the HIMSS Conference (see footnote). Conferences and airports are prime for high Fitbit scores as you wander from room to room, lecture to lecture, gate to gate.

I’ve blogged about how I use Fitbit to make sure that I walk 10K steps each day. I want to live a long time, so I do things (like moving) to stay healthy.

On days when I am seeing patientsĀ in the Emergency Department I easily log 10K steps, while on other chair ridden admin days I need to dash to the treadmill with my Fitbit and pound the rubber conveyor belt. I get in the car. Drive 1.5 miles. Run 3 miles on the treadmill. Then I get back in the car and drive 1.5 miles home. It makes perfect sense.

The Perfect Fitbit Medicine Workday

Walking 10K steps during a workday is a sign of process failure.

The perfect workday: You know, that’s the one where families cheer as you walk in and praise your healing abilities. You effortlessly document, diagnose, and treat (perhaps not in that order) the ailments of the entire population of your large town before noon. That ideal workday would consist of walking into the room the healthcare system has built around you (or your EMR) to unleash your magic. Simple and efficient. Fitbit daily total: two steps.

When my Fitbit is reading 10K after a workday, however, I am walking six miles. That is six miles of process steps. The more process steps I have taken, the more physical steps I have taken.

You step inefficiently when

  • you have to go down the hall to get supplies.
  • you have the patient walk from here to there.
  • you are seeing patients in bed 1 and bed 100, and then bed 1 again.

I bet that not only are you inefficient, but your whole team is inefficient.

Fitbit Medicine Healthcare Efficiency Ratio

Let’s get the LEAN process ninjas to hand out Fitbits for healthcare workers to wear during their workday.

The goal: Collectively accumulate the fewest number of steps to provide perfect patient care.

Let’s examine the number of steps by a physician, a tech, a nurse, the patient and an admin and then let’s figure out the cost of each of those steps. We could create a Fitbit Medicine Healthcare Efficiency Ratio of step/cost. Our ability to accountably care for our community is going to be better if our highest cost individuals have the lowest Fitbit scores. A tech walking is not as bad as a physician or a nurse walking. We certainly don’t want our patients logging high steps.

Perhaps CMS could post Fitbit efficiency scores on their website. Over time we will see healthcare workers walk toward efficient systems. A Fitbit win for one system, a Fitbit loss for the other.

One of the doctors I worked with said that he didn’t mind the steps. “That is how I gets my exercise.” That is not the goal.

Footnote: Healthcare Information and Management Systems