|The Health Record Review
by Jeff Rowe, Editor
Posted on Mon, Oct 08, 2012 - 03:35 pm
A big part of medicine involves doctors telling patients the steps they should take to get better.
But, for many health IT advocates, that “prescriptive” attitude seems equally acceptable when it comes to getting the public to sign on to the transition to EHRs.
Here, for example, is a piece by one stakeholder subtly entitled “Five Reasons Americans Should Want Electronic Health Records.” Note, if you will, the fairly explicit finger-wagging in the title. The writer doesn’t simply suggest that people might want to take another look at EHRs; he uses “should” as a crystal clear expression of necessity.
His reasons include, among other things, the potential for HIEs, the potential efficiency of e-prescribing, and in his view, the opportunity for increased “face-time” between caregivers and patients. As he puts it, “as more providers adopt digital records and get more comfortable with entering information electronically, processes will naturally become more efficient and simple – freeing caregivers to spend more time on interacting with patients like Joe.”
On that last point, we appreciate his optimism, but we’d suggest that, with upwards of 30 million new patients estimated to be brought into the system via the Affordable Care Act, combined with a predicted shortage of physicians over the next couple decades, whatever efficiencies providers gain from EHRs are just as apt to be used in ways other than more “face-time.”
So what’s our problem? A comment the writer makes early on: “As people are naturally resistant to change, . . .” We see that time and again as we survey the health IT landscape. On one level, it’s an understandable assessment, as there’s no doubt that many people are reluctant to change. But it’s not quite that simple.
For one thing, a glance through the comments section below his thoughts may explain some of why people, probably many people, are reluctant to change. But perhaps more importantly, we’d suggest health IT advocates should go easy on chalking too much up to a presumed “Luddism” among the great unwashed. After all, as we’ve noted before, the fact is most people don’t make their living thinking about ways to improve the efficiency of the healthcare system. Nor do many people spend a lot of time even pondering how to improve their health.
In other words, it isn’t necessarily resistance to change that’s keeping people from embracing new health IT. It’s that people have busy lives to live, and when they go to a doctor they want go in, get what they came for, and get out.
Little is gained, we’d suggest, by healthcare professionals copping a condescending attitude toward a slower-than-desired change of attitude when it comes to EHRs and other health IT.
Perhaps a test is in order: For those who are impatient with the pace of change or the public’s apparent disinterest, next time you go on vacation, see how much time you actually spend thinking about health IT.
Yeah, we thought so.
Photo courtesy of ChodHound via Creative Commons