I know of no industry where technology is as despised as it is in health care. It’s a statement that it took government money to incentivize healthcare providers to finally do what virtually every other industry has done — apply IT to streamline processes. “Established technology is being given a federally funded new lease on life,” athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said. “Traditional health software now is on Medicare, being kept alive like grandma.” Bush dubs this program as the “cash for clunkers” program for health IT leaving no doubt what his opinion is regarding the legacy vendors’ solutions.
While one might dismiss this coming from a company with a dog in the fight, the feeling is nearly universal amongst physicians who are the most important users (besides patients who are almost completely ignored). The best evidence of how abysmal legacy healthIT is, is that the market leader is having trouble getting medical practices to adopt their software even with huge subsidies from large health systems. In the course of discussions with large health systems, they share the deployment of a mega Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and how they were offering subsidies to affiliated doctors to adopt the same system. When pressed about how broadly it was being adopted by non-employee physicians (i.e., MDs who have a choice), the penetration was staggeringly low — 0.2% was the average of those who shared figures. This was despite the fact that they were subsidizing 85% of the cost (the maximum allowed by Stark Law).
When I’ve spoken with doctors who have rejected the entreaties from their affiliated health systems, it’s more than the expense (even after a massive subsidy, it’s still several thousand dollars plus monthly costs). Rather, the complexity and lack of user friendliness is the bigger driver. A common statement one hears in healthIT conversations is that doctors hate technology or are afraid of it. Hogwash. They only hate bad technology. Consider the iPad. Doctors are one of the biggest buyers and it’s not just young doctors.