5 barriers to IT adoption in healthcare

At the Stanford Medicine X conference, a meeting focused on transforming healthcare through technology, Robert Pearl, MD, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, delivered a keynote address on why great technologies seem to fail in the healthcare system.

Here are five reasons technology doesn't always easily integrate into the industry, offered by Dr. Pearl in a Forbes report.

1. Technology doesn't always address the issues at hand. Instead of identifying a problem and working to solve it, Dr. Pearl suggested technology entrepreneurs often discover a new technology and then figure out how to utilize it. He outlined the proliferation of wearables to illustrate this reverse development. Wearables, he wrote, are an exciting new technology, but he purports they do little in actual health management: "Many of these devices help solve the problem of what gift to give a loved one during the holidays. But few of these devices solve major health problems."

Instead, he suggested entrepreneurs make use of technology that already exists and develop solutions that are user-friendly and inexpensive.

2. People don't want to pay for new technologies. Although patients, physicians and hospitals are eager for new technologies, nobody wants to be the one to pay for them, Dr. Pearl wrote. What's more, under the fee-for-service reimbursement model, he said providers may be less likely to implement technologies that lower costs or reduce patient visits.

3. Technology may create barriers between physicians and patients. In years past, providers were seen to "own" patient's medical records, as paper charts were kept in their offices. With EMRs, patients are challenging the status quo and voicing their desire to own their own health records and be able to access them, Dr. Pearl said. Though some physicians are using technology and the Internet to interact more closely and frequently with patients, patient portals and other technologies aren't always user-friendly. He suggested developers who address technology with an easier interface that also allow patients access to records outside the physician office will help fill a void in the market.

4. Technology can take up too much time from physicians. A recent research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine found attending physicians reported losing an average of 48 minutes of free time per clinic day due to EMRs. With already busy schedules, maximizing available time is critical for physicians. Dr. Pearl wrote many physicians also become frustrated with software that doesn't allow them to skip data entry fields. He suggested entrepreneurs can focus on developing software applications with macros and smart lists to help reduce the time physicians are entering data into the EMR.

5. Physicians often see technology as impersonal. In the changing healthcare landscape, technology is going to become just as necessary for delivery as the human element, Dr. Pearl suggested. "Telling a patient he has cancer requires time, compassion and well-honed interpersonal skills," he wrote. "This is the traditional art of medicine. But figuring out the exact cancer treatment…is more a matter of technology and science."

Dr. Pearl wrote physicians won't be able to serve the individual requirements of patients without advanced health IT systems. What's more, patients are increasingly turning to technology and want to hold some sort of control over their care, such as being able to access records when and how they want to and telemedicine offerings. Physicians, and technology entrepreneurs, will have to marry the personal, individual nature of medicine with the progress and advancements in technology.

More articles on health IT:

4 recent health IT go-lives
UC Berkeley students launch student-run health tech incubator
A preview of National Health IT Week

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