Physicians Still ‘Press the Buttons’ of Healthcare Technology

The physician’s role is drastically changing.  More and more physicians are becoming institutional employees.  More patient encounters are performed via non-physician providers.  The increasing regulatory demands on physicians are consuming an inordinate amount of their time. Stress and burnout are universal to some degree. Both the financial and emotional rewards of practicing medicine have greatly diminished. They are becoming more quality control officers than healthcare providers.  However, physicians will never become irrelevant, and their key position regarding healthcare technology needs to be recognized for a number of reasons.

1.    Physicians are important to adoption of new technology.  Physicians are the first line of adoption of new technology. If physicians recommend a technology tool such as a medical app or home monitoring device to patients, there is a significantly higher chance the patient will use it than if it were picked up as a consumer item. This is because hopefully its use would be discussed in the context of a comprehensive treatment plan and not in a technological or commercial vacuum.

2.    Technology which incorporates a physician’s clinical perspective during development promotes success.  Technology which is centered on solving a specific clinical or healthcare problem is more visionary than one which is a product looking for a market.  Economic pressures and physician shortages are producing a need for technology which is designed around solving existing problems.  Physicians are on the front line of recognizing a clinical need for which even a workflow solution might potentially result in a better patient outcome. Technology developers should not wait until the completion of a project or the commercial failure of a product to bring in an experienced physician advisor who might add invaluable counsel.

3.    Physicians are ‘mobile’.  Most physicians own smart phones and a significant portion own tablets.  Most desire mobile solutions for electronic health records.  This creates an environment conducive to mobile diagnostic and treatment solutions which are gaining in popularity.  Medical apps will be prescribed for patients.  They are easy to prescribe, convey educational content to patients, and promote patient involvement and adherence.  Mobility is increasing among patients as well. Of paramount importance is that the technology needs to offer quality solutions which are cost saving and result in better outcomes.  These are mantras for digital health but worthy of repeating.

4.    Physician adoption of technology will drive adoption by other stakeholders. Physicians are seen as pivotal players in healthcare by insurers, hospitals, medical technology companies and entities such as ACOs. Technologies such as EHRs are mandated. Other types of technologies are not.  It is these others which seek the endorsement of physicians to help facilitate their incorporation into medical practice by them as well as other non-physician providers. A hospital might not adopt a mobile technology strategy unless a critical mass of physicians asks for it.  An EHR company might not incorporate other technologies with connectivity unless requested by key customers.

Technology is developing at unimaginable speed and degrees.  What we must be careful of is developing technologies in search of a purpose, those which are redundant, and those which are neither intuitive nor easily adoptable for other reasons. Physicians can play key roles in the development, promotion, and adoption of worthy technologies both to peers and patients.


About davidleescher

David Lee Scher, MD is Founder and Director at DLS HEALTHCARE CONSULTING, LLC, which specializes in advising digital health technology companies, their partners, investors, and clients. As a cardiac electrophysiologist and pioneer adopter of remote patient monitoring, he understood early on the challenges that the culture and landscape of healthcare present to the development and adoption of digital technologies. He is a well-respected thought leader in mobile and other digital health technologies. Scher lectures worldwide on relevant industry topics including the role of tech in Pharma, patient advocacy, standards for development and adoption, and impact on patients and healthcare systems from clinical, risk management, operational and marketing standpoints. He is a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine.
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3 Responses to Physicians Still ‘Press the Buttons’ of Healthcare Technology

  1. benchtime says:

    Reblogged this on BenchTime and commented:
    This is an important concept for me, being an architect for a healthcare information technology company. I think it’s vitally important for healthcare consumers as well to know that in many ways, their doctors are incredibly influential in driving the technologies that allow them to deliver healthcare. While I’m not going to get overly political, this is one thing that I am quite passionate about, given that I have many family members who are doctors, and I’ve seen firsthand the changes in the delivery in healthcare over the years. The loss of autonomy and the costs of healthcare playing heavily into the quality of its delivery are the two main reasons that I decided not to follow in the family tradition and go into medicine. There’s got to be a better way to get doctors back to being doctors. I see mobility, BYO, and other similar innovative trends that are seeing doctors as the drivers for determining how they want to practice medicine, and how they want to use technology to do it. Doctors fortunately have been very vocal and steadfast in what they’re pushing from a technology perspective. Try taking an iPad away from a doc and I’m betting you’ll have a pretty angry doc. We need to be better listeners and build technologies to empower medicine again instead of dictating what we think they need. This will become an incredibly important facet for the survival of independent practitioners or small practices who don’t want to be assimilated into institutional medicine.

    • Rude Guy says:

      You can’t design/imagine/engineer a great car if you don’t know how to drive. Users decide the best products. Knowing someone who drives is not only inadequate, it creates inferior, unintuitive programs. We need practitioners who are visionaries, not outsiders who are dreamers. My practice uses a billion dollar system that makes even simple, mundane tasks complicated. The paper paradigm worked and could have been easily emulated but it was “improved” by people who don’t understand that technology is a means and not an end.

      • I couldn’t agree more about the need for clinicians to be involved in the development of digital technologies. It is what I spend my time doing and preaching. Part of the complete process is efficacy studies after completion of development. I believe the process should involve users on all levels.

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