Monthly Archives: May 2011
I wrote my very first blog post almost exactly one year ago. The topic – physicians aren’t technology-averse, they are just averse to technology that doesn’t meet their needs. An article published today by the American Medical News says “For years, many advocates of information technology viewed physicians as computer-phobic Luddites, slow to adopt and benefit from health IT. As it turned out, many doctors are enthusiastic users of technology. The key is for them to find something that serves their needs, rather than being forced to bend to the needs of the technology or the institution behind it.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself (actually, I did). The article cites physicians’ adoption of mobile technology, which vastly exceeds that of the general populace (5x greater), as a primary example of physicians adopting technology. The article continues to describe the App Challenge sponsored by the American Medical Association. Any U.S. physician, medical resident or medical student is eligible to submit an idea for a physician-focused app with winners to receive a $1,000 American Express gift card, a $1,500 Apple store gift card and a round trip for two to New Orleans for the AMA House of Delegates Interim Meeting in November. Great prizes and great idea.
mHeath has definitely greased the skids for successful physician use of IT, but the common theme is applications that support their workflow will be embraced by the physician community.
On it’s “face” (sorry, couldn’t help myself) it seems contradictory at best. How can spending more time with technology actually increase (and improve) the amount of time a physician spends with a patient?
But that’s just what a recent study found – moving certain functions online (namely, administrative functions like scheduling, bill pay and insurance verification) provides an opportunity for more efficient and productive doctor-patient visits (study results). While it only makes sense that taking care of largely administrative tasks online could improve this interaction, it goes beyond the transfer of work outside the actual visit. Providing patients with access to their health information as well as general wellness information increases personal engagement in their health, something that all providers should strive to achieve, particularly as they become more financially responsible for outcomes.
The key, according to a report by Arash Mostaghimi, MD in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is to provide “ubiquitous access to information instantly.” According to Mostaghimi, it’s not about the communication tool (e.g., email vs. social media) as much as it is about providing information by whatever methods patients prefer. This will likely take time, however, as adoption of Personal Health Records (PHRs) by providers and patients alike has been slow. And doctor-patient communication by email remained constant (and low) at 2.9% between 2003 and 2008 according to published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Time contrains, privacy and security, and lack of compensation are all listed as contributing to slow physician adoption.
According to Mostaghimi, waiting for the ideal or a standard technology won’t work. Physicians need to familiarize themselves with the kind of communications their patients prefer. As payment continues to move toward value- and outcome-based payment, physicians will continue to have the incentive to engage patients in their own health and improve the quality of the doctor-patient interaction.
Today, Manhattan Research announced that 75% of U.S. physicians own some form of Apple device while, unlike the general consumer market, the iPhone continues to dominate Android among physicians.
Overall, smartphone penetration among physicians has already exceeded earlier analysts’ projections of 81% by 2012. Why has Apple dominated the device market and why has smartphone adoption among physicians exceeded that of the general population?
The answer to why Apple is actually pretty simple – apple has the iPad while Android is still waiting for a real market entry to compete with Apple’s popular device. The iPad has captured physicians’ attention like no tablet (or device) before, and this trend is likely to continue as more EHR venders provide access to their systems on this device. Another potential reason for Apple’s dominance could be as simple as the availability of healthcare-related apps. Developers have shown a willingness to create apps on the iOS platform more often than on the Android OS. Of course this could be a chicken-egg scenario – more apps and more market share beget more vendors developing on the platform and the opposite. Whatever the reason, more vendors support iOS than do Android at this point. It’s also possible healthcare organizations prefer the closed app approval process required of the App Store. The open source nature of Android app development has lead to higher incidence of malware attacks, something healthcare organizations are sure to want to avoid.
As for why smartphone adoption among physicians continues to be higher than the general population – smartphones and tablets support physician workflow in many ways like no device before. Physicians are inherently mobile, whether simply rounding from floor to floor to lab in the hospital or traveling from hospital to different physician offices. Simply put, a smartphone or a tablet fit within a lab coat better than a laptop or a computer on wheels. Due to their screen size and form factor, these devices run applications that must focus on efficient user interaction and experience with near instantaneous “boot up” time.
Bottom line, where physicians’ are involved, smartphones and tablets appear to cure what ails EHR adoption.