How To Get Your Doctor To FINALLY Use A Computer


Originally published 11/19/10 on The Doctor Weighs In.

I had the chance to attend the first ever user’s conference of Practice Fusion – a company that provides Electronic Medical Records to doctors over the web for free (free!).  It was a most amazing experience to hear users of the product clap and cheer with every announcement of an improvement or an update.  Love this idea.  Love that it is free.  Love that they are cranking out code as fast as they can to respond to the requests of their customers.

I asked the PF folks if they could help our dear readers at TDWI understand why this is so important.  Here is the response from the founder and CEO of this amazing company:

“How to get your doctor to finally use a computer”?

by Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion

If you’ve been using computers since the Commodore 64 days, why is your doctor – the guy who went to school for 7 years – still on paper charts and post it notes? Doctors who use electronic health record (EHR) systems make fewer mistakes, collaborate better with other providers, email you appointment reminders and can actually share records with you.  Here are five tips for joining healthcare’s tech revolution:

1. Talk tech with your doctor. Turn the table in the exam room and ask your physician about their EHR use. Odds are, they’re working on the switch right now.  New affordable, lightweight systems like Practice Fusion mean they don’t have to shell out $50,000 for software.  And big economic [US government] stimulus incentives are lighting a fire under all that paper.

2. Offer to be a beta patient. Volunteer to have your next appointment when the doctor is testing out a system. It might take a little longer for the doc to document your visit – but you’ll save time when your prescription goes straight to the pharmacy with a click of a button.

3. Become an e-patient. Lead by example. Track your health stats with mobile apps, sign up for a Personal Health Record. You might lure your doctor toward cool technology and improve your own health at the same time.

4. Change doctors. If your doctor doesn’t use an EHR, don’t use your doctor. The stats are there saying your safer and better treated when your doctor is on a computer.  When looking for a new provider ask about electronic records before you make an appointment

5. Go with Kaiser or the VA. The two large health networks are health IT leaders.  100% of Kaiser providers use EHR systems and they even let you email with your doctor from home.

Note From Pat. I am a Kaiser patient.  When I visit my PCP, she pulls up her computer (mounted on something that looks like an IV pole).  Together, we look at my data – meds, medical history, current issues.  She updates it in front of me.  We have more time to talk.  When we are nearing the end of our time together, she orders med refills, tests, referrals right on the spot.  And then, get this, I get to access her note about the visit on the KP patient portal.  Can you believe that?

I agree with Ryan.  It is 2010.  We would not tolerate going back to the days of hand-written airline tickets, hotels that don’t already know our preferences, buying almost anything that requires a trip to the store when we could but it quicker and easier online.  So why do we tolerate a medical practice that isn’t computerized?  Notes that are handwritten?  Prescriptions that we have to carry to the pharmacy?  With free EMRs, accessible on the internet, there really isn’t an excuse for sticking with paper.

Pat Salber, MD, MBA is a Principal and Co-Founder of Zolo Health Solutions.

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