Did you ever walk into a doctor’s office and then have to fill out a long paper intake form with the same information you’ve filled out multiple times before (name, date of birth, insurance etc.)? Or notice that your doctor is writing notes on pieces of paper that remind you of your days in school? Did you ever see someone carry a pager around? Was that person wearing a white coat?
You can bank and pay for your Etsy, Amazon, Target, Apple “gotta have that now” stuff online. You can Skype with your family who live thousands of miles away. You can order a pizza and know the exact moment it comes out of the oven. You can interact with @Oreo, @TacoBell @Grumpycat online.
So why can’t you easily see your health charges online? Why can’t you get a quick text or email that you’ll be seen by your doctor in 10 minutes? Why can’t you Skype with your doctor?
1. Until recently, your doctor has probably had little to no training or exposure to the world of digital health.
If you do a quick-and-dirty poll and ask the MD’s in your life what it is, you’ll likely get a question mark look or an answer related to apps, electronic medical records, or meaningful use. How can that be? Don’t most doctors have smartphones and tablets? Yes, a lot do, but their use in a professional capacity isn’t 100% yet.
Until recently, there were no courses in med school or noon lectures in residency related to health information technology, wearable tech, personalized medicine, medical apps etc.
It’s hard to use something or integrate it into your daily life if you’ve never heard of or really used it before.
2. Time is an issue.
Doctors focus on taking care of patients. I’m thinking more about your symptoms and how you feel than the medium I’m using to document your visit.
Then for doctors that are tech-inclined, there are thousands of apps & products out there and it’s time consuming to mine through all of them. Plus, patients are individuals and some things are not one size fits all.
3. Inertia (Thankfully this doesn’t apply to everyone)
It exists. Healthcare is a complex system with many layers and many players. I once read that it takes 15-20 years to make big changes happen.
My two-cents: We are rooted in tradition, yes, but the main tradition we uphold is caring for patients. This entails providing the best care possible and embracing new technologies, thought frameworks, workflows that will give the people we swore an oath to care for the best possible experience.
Do you remember when video game consoles first came out? They weren’t in color and there were very simple and basic things you could do, and not much else? Fast forward to the consoles and games of today which provide an IMAX or in some cases a virtual reality experience. Big difference, right? Medicine is slowly making its way from version 1.0 to version 2.0.
Remember how pricey version 1.0 of any tech is? Then 5 years later version 5.0 is as pricey but 20 times better. That’s kind of how it is too. Thing is though, version 1.0 is deeply entrenched and is usually pricey to remove and you have to train people to use the new product & there will definitely be speed bumps along the way.
5. So-so to bad first time experiences
Have you ever tried on a dress or a suit that clearly was made for someone else but you tried to make it work anyway? Well…certain kinds of tech weren’t originally made for doctors (actually made for billers) and so the initial experience wasn’t so great.
Or another way of putting things is, if you took a bite out of something and it was not what you expected, would you be more or less likely to take a second bite?
6. Your individual doctor may not be the main decision maker when it comes to choosing and using tech.
Doctors use the tech tools that are available to them. As a student, doctor-in-training or even as a supervising physician you tend to use the technology that is already in your clinic, hospital or center and don’t really play an active role in choosing the tech.
7. Classic battle of innovation vs. regulation
The actions of healthcare providers, which include nurses, physician assistants, medical assistants etc., affect lives. We tend to favor things that have been tested and researched and that don’t do gross harm. Thing is, innovation pretty much implies the unknown.
Ok…so these are the issues. Now for some good news.
Times are changing. I’ve seen initiatives in regards to digital education, collaborative innovation and health policy changes (government push to go digital). In addition, chips are getting smaller and faster and technology is becoming ever more accessible cost-wise. Organizations and startups are taking a hard look at what hasn’t worked and where a lot of the friction/pain-points are, in order to come up with solutions that make the healthcare experience better. Lastly, there has been a push by patients, by the general public, for change to happen and trust me, it will. It’s just a matter of time.
Image Credit: CC by aeu04117