Why I’m Here
I’ve been a practicing physician for 20 years – my specialty is hospital medicine – and all that time I have been fascinated by the role computers can play in my chosen profession. My affinity for health IT grew from an underlying interest in the developing personal computing industry during my college years, and represents a natural integration of my passions for medicine and technology.
As a physician, I was an early adopter. I served as the residency liaison for an early EHR coming on line at the time. In subsequent clinical and administrative roles, I developed an increasing appreciation for the potential of the EHR. However, as a physician executive I became painfully aware of the challenges relating to the EHR – its negative impact on provider engagement, provider utilization, recruitment and patient experience.
Now, as Chief Medical Officer at a health IT vendor, I can be part of the solution. And since I continue to practice (part time at a Boston teaching hospital), I retain the “user perspective” that is so valuable to informing health IT product design and deployment. I have come to appreciate that the barriers to physician engagement and adoption of EHRs are both technological and cultural. Even providers who appreciate the underlying advantages to patient care of these systems must overcome their history of disappointment with EHRs and feelings of exclusion from the development process. They need to understand the genesis of early, relatively crude EHR systems and see them for what they are: a necessary (albeit insufficient) first step toward what ultimately promises to be better, technology-enabled patient care.
I also understand this: IT becomes most valuable to physicians when it can help us integrate new data (because medical knowledge is advancing at a rate that far outpaces even the smartest physician’s cognitive ability to process it), catch potential errors and omissions before they occur, improve patient care and restore the joy of the doctor-patient relationship. The key role for physicians is to engage in the process. Every physician need not work for a health IT vendor, but all of us can engage to help guide development of future technology to meet our needs as physicians while improving patient care. We physicians have more clout than we realize.
[This post is adapted from an article that appeared in Health IT Outcomes.]