Doctors who are capable of using the latest technology are valuable commodities in today’s medical world.
Using up-to-the-minute science in record-keeping, as well as in ordering and conducting tests, helps physicians detect disease, share results and begin treatment for patients more quickly. Then there’s the whole growing field of telemedicine, where a doctor’s visit consists of logging onto your computer from wherever you may be.
New electronic medical records systems also give patients the ability to better manage their own health information, and at the touch of a button, connect with their health care providers. Ninety-three percent of Americans say that is something they want, according to a 2014 poll by Catalyst Healthcare Research (CHR).
Of that 93 percent, 1 in 4 said they would still choose that doctor even if there was a $25 fee per episode.
Still, some doctors are less than eager to embrace these new techniques. (For those of you battling tech advancements and upgrades in your own profession, some of this won't come as a surprise.)
Complex computer systems, a lack of payment for time spent responding to patient emails, and doctors' fears that their inboxes will be overloaded are the reasons why about 20 percent of all doctors communicate electronically with their patients, according to the Roanoke Times.
Staying abreast of late-breaking issues can be laborious and expensive. Getting trained and becoming adept at using cutting-edge scientific know-how in testing, charting and record-keeping can be off-putting and overwhelming.
Medical personnel acknowledge the benefits of using quickly advancing technology. And 8 out of 10 physicians reported in 2013 they were already using an EHR system or planned to adopt one. Yet some doctors are simply still struggling — wondering if the computer takes away precious time from the old-fashioned physical assessment and doctor-patient interview time.
"Having records available to all the doctors on a patient’s case makes for more comprehensive medical care," Bruce Ruben, a physician and medical director of Encompass HealthCare and Wound Medicine in Michigan, told LifeZette.
"It is critical all doctors treating the same patient are on the 'same page,' so allowing the patient to transfer medical records allows for continuity of care, faster information transference, and a more efficient process."
Another benefit of computerized technology is the availability of medical literature and studies.
"In the past when you wanted to look up something, you needed to find your way to the library or department office to find books and journals, some of which may have been out of date. Now you can access reliable information online rapidly to enhance diagnosis and treatment via use of extensive, searchable resources," said Joseph E. Glaser, a nuclear medicine physician at Radiologic Associates in Middletown, New York.
The development of clinical trials using data-based evidence that can be analyzed to define risk factors and underlying relationships between patients is another major development. "The scale on which this is done today would not be possible without technology," Glaser told LifeZette.
Still, the application of technology in medicine is moving at a much greater speed than doctors can often adapt to, even for the ones more than willing to embrace the practice.
"No one piece of software typically does everything that is required. And requirements may vary due to differences within your populations, different locations and resources that may fluctuate involving your medical practice," Glaser said.
Ensuring that information flows securely and in a seamless fashion can also be challenging and requires close collaboration with other clinicians, he added.
"Keeping up with these breakthrough applications for treating patients requires a commitment of personal time, time away from their practice and cost of travel and training courses," said George M. Suarez, a urology surgeon in Miami, Florida.
Still, "it is absolutely necessary for doctors to make the sacrifice to keep up with the ever evolving advances in order to provide optimal medical care. Unfortunately, often times doctors will resist these advances, view them as a disruptive nuisance and refer to them as experimental or unproven which precludes patients from accessing these treatments," Suarez told LifeZette.
Bottom line: There’s no holding back science. Doctors and their patients have to adapt to the ever-expanding horizon of mechanization, and doctors say it is mainly a good thing as long as they can still talk to their patients face-to-face.
"I find that listening to my patients is my number-one best tool. Really listening can tell you all you need to know about what's wrong with that patient, and it's never failed me yet," said Ruben.