Why adoption of EHRs is a transformational event for physicians

Paul Conslato, MD, director of clinical affairs for Lancaster General Medical Group, recently was quoted in the PAMED Better Health Network eZine that the introduction of electronic health records is “the largest transformational event for physicians within the last 50 years.”

Fifty years is a long time and takes us back into the 1960s. Certainly, there have been plenty of changes in the practice of medicine since then.  We’ve seen new treatments developed.  We’ve seen new diseases identified.  And, we’ve seen various changes in medical financing … just to name a few of the changes since the age of 8-track tapes.

But Dr. Conslato’s observation catches my attention, and I wonder if he hasn’t touched upon something historical in medicine that we may not realize is happening.

Can it be that information technology is now an integral part of any exam?  Is it possible that the business of medicine is more real-time than ever before?  Are outcomes becoming more transparent as data collection becomes easier?

Yes, yes, and yes, but that was all inevitable.

I wonder if adoption of EHRs is the largest transformational event for physicians because it’s a generational role reversal within the ranks.  We may be at a time in the history of medicine in which freshly minted medical school graduates can teach our older, experienced physicians a thing or two.

Joanne Cochran, founder and CEO of Keystone Health Center, a federally qualified health center serving the Chambersburg, Pa., area told the PAMED Better Health Network eZine that physician acceptance of EHRs can be a major hurdle for some group practices and can vary greatly based upon specialty and age.

“Our younger, computer savvy doctors took to this like a swan to water,” she was quoted in the January 2012 edition.  “It wasn’t as easy for some of our other physicians.”

The phrase “other physicians” is actually code for older physicians.

Imagine this … new physicians becoming mentors to those with decades more experience in patient care.

Yes, indeed, Dr. Conslato’s observation is a sign of the times.

So, since this does appear to be happening, where do we go from here?  Will the practice of medicine ever be the same again?

I don’t think of myself as an older physician, but I have been practicing for a couple of decades now.  I’m probably a “tweener” when it comes to this issue.  With that said, even I believe I can still learn something new from someone younger than I.

So, I offer the following thoughts.

First, experienced physicians of all ages need to adjust to the generational differences in the adoption of EHRs for the good of patient care.  We may not have a chance to experience all of the changes coming as retirements arrive, but we do have an obligation to the future of patient care.

Second, younger physicians shouldn’t be shy in offering help to older physicians.  Yeah, we know our thumb action isn’t as slick as it could be, but we do admire and respect the thirst that younger physicians have for information technology and how it works to improve patient care.

Marilyn J. Heine is an oncologist and President, Pennsylvania Medical Society.

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