|The Health Record Review
by Jeff Rowe, Editor
Posted on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 - 11:35 am
Perhaps the greatest risk in policy discussions, when it comes to the topic of health IT, is the relentless potential for irrational exuberance.
No doubt, constant technological change will manage to solve or ameliorate many problems across our healthcare system, but it seems the better of wisdom to err on the side of caution when projecting exactly what magic technology will produce next.
These thoughts come to mind with the news of a new study which suggests, as this article puts it, “electronic communication could help put an end to the perennial physician shortage problem in the U.S..”
According to the abstract of the study, which has been published by Health Affairs, researchers are claiming “that the implementation of some increasingly popular operational changes in the ways clinicians deliver care—including the use of teams or ‘pods,’ better information technology and sharing of data, and the use of nonphysicians—have the potential to offset completely the increase in demand for physician services while improving access to care, thereby averting a primary care physician shortage.”
So what’s wrong with this notion? Setting aside the definitive nature of the phrase "offset completely", perhaps nothing. But it seems to assume a whole host of developments taking place over the next few years that will deliver us, rather seamlessly, into a future of plenty, at least when it comes to the number of available providers.
Maybe things will in fact break that way. But given that on one important level the health IT transition is a political process, and given that politics in this or any democracy tends to lend itself to, shall we say, moments of enthusiasm that transcend sober reasoning, perhaps the last thing our debates about the future of healthcare need is yet another “silver bullet” claim for technology.
After all, we pointed just yesterday to another study that highlighted how much work is involved for providers to get the health IT transition right. Better to focus on the present challenges, it seems to us, then to ramp up expectations about a future that is still some distance away.
Photo courtesy of lindsay_bremmer via Creative Commons.