Is Technology Too Burdensome for Physicians?


We live in an age of technology, whether it’s the phones in our pockets or the sensors in our cars, and for the most part, it’s enriched our lives. Yet, in health care, technological advances might be placing too high of a burden on physicians and damaging patient relationships.

I recently attended a media briefing with Donald Rucker, the national coordinator for health information technology, and he said easing technological burdens is a priority for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Electronic health records are the main burden facing physicians, Rucker said, noting that doctors often spend more time entering data into their EHRs than talking to their patients. Rucker said “unpeeling the onion” of regulatory burdens has been challenging, but that the ONC is committed to streamlining EHRs and making it easier for physicians to enter their data.

Rucker was joined by John Fleming, the Health and Human Services deputy assistant secretary for health technology reform, who said technological burdens are especially heavy for smaller physicians and medical practices. EHRs can be more of a harm than a benefit for these smaller providers, with some of them spending two or more hours a day entering patient data, Fleming said.

An individual physician or a small medical practice doesn’t have the luxury of an information technology department, Fleming said, and their only backup is their health information technology vendor. Current technological support for individual doctors is very low, but if the EHR process can simplified, it would lead to overall cost savings, Fleming said.

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