Show doctors the value when it comes to social media and EMRs

Show doctors the value when it comes to social media and EMRsThe common perception is that older doctors are more adverse to technology, especially when it comes to electronic medical records.

Recent data, however, says that isn’t true.

According to a study cited in American Medical News, “physicians more than 10 years out of medical school and those with higher patient volumes were more likely than younger and less busy physicians to use advanced EMR features.”

Value is a better predictor of technology adoption than age.

If doctors don’t find technology useful they’re not about to adopt it:

Dean Sittig, PhD, professor at the School of Biomedical Informatics in The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said physicians have never been averse to technology. “They are averse to things that don’t help them get their work done.”

Experienced physicians have become quite comfortable with how they have practiced medicine for so many years and aren’t actively looking for ways to change. But if they find a product they think will help them, they are open to adopting it.

As it stands, the majority of EMRs aren’t designed with the physician end-user in mind. Until the physician user experience is a priority, except the adoption of digital records to be slower than one would like.

Combine that with the fact that, although dwindling, the majority of physicians continue to work in private practice environments, with many in small group practices. The cost to convert to an EMR in that environment is staggering, and many times, unfeasible:

Erica Drazen, managing director of the Emerging Practices Group in the health care division of the Falls Church, Va., research group CSC, said one- and two-physician practices (a high percentage of which are run by older doctors) have greater barriers than others when it comes to adopting an EMR. These barriers — cost being No. 1 — left physicians hesitant to jump in. The barriers are starting to come down, but physicians want to make the right decision.

I can draw a corollary to physician use of social media. According to a study from Manhattan Research (found on page 47 of the Massachusetts Medical Society social media policy), physicians use social media outlets at about the same rate of the general population, but significantly less for professional use. So, in general, doctors aren’t hesitant to use Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, they simply don’t see the value.

For both electronic medical records and social media, we need to do a better job of showing how these tools can help doctors professionally, in the least obstructive way possible.

 is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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  • Anonymous

    We have an EHR at our clinic.  Kinda neat, but it is worth it in dollars and cents and sickness and death averted?  Doubtful.  We bill at the same rate, plus the nurses, doctors, and office staff spend a huge amount of time fooling with it.  I’m on the templating committee, for cryin’ out loud. An indirect cost that I definitely feel. Plus the direct costs, of course. 
    But it is all worthwhile because of the massive improvements in quality of care—not.  Quality of care in our clinic is the same as it ever was. 
    EHRs might work some day for me and my patients. Then again they might not.  They are definitely working for the vendors and assorted health care “visionaries” like one of our presidential candidates.

    H. D. Thoreau, Walden, 1851: “Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.”  Not always of course, but more often than we might like to admit.

  • Anonymous

    “we need to do a better job of showing how these tools can help doctors professionally”

    To do so, you have to present a  benefit that will hold up to objective scientific scrutiny. Every benefit proposed so far for EMRs has failed that test.

    Can you present one that would pass?

  • Darrell White

    I am about to be forced to use the abomination know as “Epic” in order to continue to perform surgery at a particular institution, one where I spend ~10% of my clinical time. My work there is very profitable for the institution; I am not paid by the institution. At present my administrative load is 2X what it was 5 years ago, but the majority is borne by my staff. Once I am required to use the EHR my administrative load will increase at least 20X and I will bear all of it.

    Why? My forms are standardized and fulfulling my part of the administrative load requires approximately 8 signatures for each case. 8 swipes with a pen on 8 pages laid out before me and marked “sign here”. Time = 0:10/case. Soon I will have to sign into the system for each case and move through a series of ~5 steps to reach the point where I will perform the digital version of my sweeping pen. Time, I am told by colleagues using the system to achieve this = ~4:00/case. Let’s be generous and assume that they can’t possibly be correct, that it can’t possibly take 4:00 to do digitally what I now do with a pen (Heaven help if I have to enter pre- and post-op orders w/out standard forms!), that it’s only 2:00. A typical OR day includes 20+ patients. 40 minutes added minimum. Did I mention that I have to do it TWICE because you can’t sign an op note right after surgery?

    Lest you think this 52 yo doc is a luddite let me assure you that quite the opposite is the case. We have had an extremely efficient EMR in our office for 7 years; our management and scheduling has been done by computer for 16. My home is littered with Apple products. I’m a buyer of tech WHEN IT MAKES SENSE.

    Unfortunately, it appears that I’m about to be forced to be a buyer of “meaningless use” very soon.

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