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

The 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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