Our story about the technology lag among physicians earlier this week generated quite a few interesting comments. We thought we’d feature some of them here and provide more insight from a technology consultant who works with medical offices.
To recap, although the startup sector for mobile health technology is booming — as evidenced by events like this week’s mHealth summit — many physicians have been reluctant to adopt new technology in their offices:
“Dr. Eric Topol (a health-tech evangelist and one of the presenters at the summit) called the medical community ‘ossified,’ and (Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen) Sebelius noted that as personal tech has revolutionized virtually every other industry, ‘healthcare has stubbornly held on to its cabinet and hanging files.’”
On our Facebook page, Romy Ribitzky responded that this is, “A real problem in a field that is known for its innovation and breakthroughs.”
Many of you agreed that physicians are simply set in their ways. Citing a 2009 study showing that 82 percent of active U.S. physicians are over age 40, commenter SeaTigr suggested that physicians are possibly not the target demographic for mobile tech:
“Are there plenty of middle age, or older, people who are big on IT? Yes. But the generalization, for now, is older people are less likely to be IT savvy than younger people (that will probably change in 10-20 years when the millenials start hitting 40).”
Others pointed out that some doctors have, in fact, laid the groundwork for developing new mobile health technologies. Commenter mlscha suggests that mobile tech breaks apart the “iron triangle” in healthcare, or the theory that one can’t simultaneously lower costs, increase quality, and increase access in the healthcare system.
“My favorite are the technologies that reduce tragic medical errors in children,” the commenter writes. “Dr. Broselow, who 20 years ago invented the Broselow tape for quickly measuring and medicating children in emergencies. He now has a web system that gives immediate doses, includes bar code scanning for kids, and even has a burns calculator that calculates fluid replacement for each child based on weight and area burned.”
Although doctors may not have warmed to mobile health devices as quickly as some entrepreneurs would like, physicians do adopt new technologies when it’s convenient and logical for them to do so, said Rosemarie Nelson, a technology consultant with the Medical Group Management Association.
Physicians may not immediately embrace devices like the portable ultrasound Vscan, which Topol demonstrated at the summit, because technicians generally handle ultrasounds, not doctors. However, Nelson said devices like Square, the portable credit-card reader for iPhones, have gained huge traction with doctors’ offices.
“One practice looked at that and said, ‘This is going to save us when we go to a satellite office where we’re only based one day per week.’”she said. “If there is a utility and it fits in with their workflow, it’s there.”
She points out that physicians are incredibly busy in their clinical practices and don’t always have time to explore new technologies. She also said it takes time and “gentle selling” in order for physicians to dive into new tech frontiers, such as remote patient monitoring devices.
“People have to grow into it. You have to see contracts with physicians change. The patients have to start using the devices,”she said. “It’s not the kind of thing that you can just start effective January 1.”