Technological Advancements: Won't Somebody Think Of The Doctor?
Every day, medical technology is being developed and implemented at an increasingly rapid pace – look no further than the evolution of electronic health records (EHRs) for proof. Yet, the developers of these ever-changing technologies are rarely physicians, nor are physicians consulted. If these innovators truly want to make a product that will change the face of healthcare, they would be wise to incorporate the thoughts and ideas of those on the frontline for who these technologies are being developed. However, more often than not, technology and software are developed and forced on doctors with the ensuing attempt at implementation falling flat. By Linda M. Girgis, MD, FAAFP
By Linda M. Girgis, MD, FAAFP
Every day, medical technology is being developed and implemented at an increasingly rapid pace – look no further than the evolution of electronic health records (EHRs) for proof. Yet, the developers of these ever-changing technologies are rarely physicians, nor are physicians consulted.
If these innovators truly want to make a product that will change the face of healthcare, they would be wise to incorporate the thoughts and ideas of those on the frontline for who these technologies are being developed. However, more often than not, technology and software are developed and forced on doctors with the ensuing attempt at implementation falling flat.
Again, look at the evolution of EHRs.
Many companies and individuals worked on the advancement of EHRs and, while they may eventually revolutionize healthcare, they are currently slowing the industry down. It is important to have patient data available, but not at the cost of physicians face time with the patient. EHRs can make us more efficient and this was one of the aims of the software vendors. Yet, when doctors were forced to implement these systems, most of us found it slowed us down. For example, the chart notes now contain too many extraneous details making it difficult to find the data that is needed for care of the patient.
Patient portals are another area where healthcare can be transformed. The patient can give and get information (such as test results) through an interface with the practice’s EHR while the office gains efficiency with fewer calls to relay this vital information. However, while everyone is listing the benefits of patient portals, the technology is not there yet.
We have been trying to get our patient portal to interface with our practice management software for the last 18 months. The software technicians have not been able to build that interface yet and it would be good to know what information doctors want to pass to and from EHR systems. Software developers cannot make this decision for us, it is part of patient care and how we want to manage our patients. For example, if a patient has an abnormal test result, I don’t want them to be able to get those results through the patient portal. That requires a face-to-face visit so the patient can get their questions answered and their concerns addressed.
Then there are medical apps patients bring to us every day – some good, others not so good – with the FDA stepping in to try and regulate them. From the beginning, doctors should have been consulted by developers as to what is and isn’t useful. Some apps empower patients to be advocates for their own health, but a software developer doesn’t know how to best achieve that outcome. It takes input from physicians to really know what is useful for patient care.
The innovation of wearable technology is also something that has recently exploded onto the scene. These are beneficial for the reasons stated above. They can also provide useful information about the patient and it would be great thing to see wearable technology targeted to specific disease, such as diabetes (tracing patient's blood sugars), CHF (monitoring the patient’s fluid status), and hypertension (monitoring the patient’s blood pressure). Physician input into the development of wearable technology could help target them for these specific diseases and treatment end points. Only a doctor knows what information is needed to reach these treatment goals.
A final area where technology is changing is hardware development. Many vendors will tell you what type of computer (iPad, notebook, etc.) is best to carry into the exam room but there is no ideal computer hardware that is usable for patient care. A system needs to be developed that allows for ease of EHR data input while allowing the physician to maintain a sufficient degree of eye contact with the patient.
While technology has greatly advanced healthcare and has the potential to take it even further, there is still much that needs to be done to improve it. Medical technology/software is never going to be optimal or truly effective without hearing the voices of the physicians on the frontline. Perhaps, that step should come first rather than developing the technology and trying to force doctors to adapt to it. The future of healthcare needs these uses of technology, but without input from doctors, the revolution will never truly come.
About The Author
Linda Girgis, MD, FAAFP, is a board certified family doctor with Girgis Family Practice. Dr. Girgis studied medicine at St. George's University School of Medicine and served her residency at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, PA.
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