Viewpoint: Physicians without 'computer literacy' are getting left behind

Stephen L. Carter, a law professor at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University, questioned what a recent court cause might mean for employees falling behind on "computer literacy" in a Dec. 5 column for Bloomberg.

"What if your profession has never required much computer literacy — and then all of a sudden it does," he wrote. "Should you be fired? Should your license be yanked? That's the question raised by the bizarre case of Anna Konopka."

Anna Konopka, MD, went to court last month in an attempt to have her medical license reinstated. She claimed during the hearing the New Hampshire Board of Medicine forced her surrender her license following allegations she indiscriminately prescribed opioids to her patients and refused to participate in the state's mandatory reporting system for opioid prescriptions. However, a Merrimack County Superior Court judge dismissed the case.

Dr. Konopka, 84, has treated patients in New London, N.H., since 1989. The 84-year-old solo practitioner has a loyal patient following in the town of 4,400 — but no computer or EHR. Her office uses paper records, kept in two file cabinets, and boasts little technology aside from a fax machine and landline telephone. Dr. Konopka also claimed she doesn't know how to use a computer or the internet.

Mr. Carter wrote there are a few reasons medical professionals should be proficient in some degree of technology. "Just consider the enormous amount of information that we nowadays expect providers to have at their fingertips. The latest research. The latest scans and lab reports. The latest messages from other doctors," he noted.

"On the other hand, if [Dr.] Konopka's patients are mostly happy, we should at least be wary of snatching away her license," he continued.

It's a difficult question, and one that Dr. Carter suggested will take on a larger role as technology continues to become a growing part of each profession.

"I'm not arguing that [Dr.] Konopka should get her license back," he wrote. "But the issues raised by her case are not going to go away. As the pace of technological change accelerates, all of us will sooner or later find ourselves unable to keep up. The question is whether, when that happens, the workplace should make allowances ... or show us the door."

To access Mr. Carter's column, click here.

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