Physician-computer conundrum sparks parade of new books

July 22, 2004

Physicians move through an increasingly high-tech world, yet they deal with woefully backward healthcare IT settings. Two books released by the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society attempt to address this worrisome disconnect.While

Physicians move through an increasingly high-tech world, yet they deal with woefully backward healthcare IT settings. Two books released by the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society attempt to address this worrisome disconnect.

While computer use races forward in most areas of society, physician adoption of healthcare IT continues to lag near the rear of the pack, inhibiting delivery of quality care.

In The Physician-Computer Conundrum: Get Over It (2004 HIMSS, ISBN 0-9725371-3-9), authors Richard Rydell and Dr. William F. Bria revisit the topic of physicians and technology adoption eight years after the publication of their first book, The Physician-Computer Connection (1996, Jossey-Bass, ISBN: 1-55648-166-7).

So far, the connection has not been made and the conundrum has not been resolved.

"In fact, it has become much worse," said Dr. M. Michael Shabot, medical director of enterprise information services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in the book's forward.

The disconnect persists between the highly computerized and networked world physicians live in and the sluggish state of computerization in most hospitals and healthcare settings, according to Shabot.

"We live in a world where the life or death of a patient can depend on whether an allergy sticker adheres to a chart," he said.

The authors offer insights into the underlying problem and then detail methods used successfully to get over it. Rather than focusing on particular technologies, they emphasize developing clear organizational goals and committed leadership.

"Deference to computer technocrats may work in pure science, but it usually leads to disaster in clinical medicine," Shabot said.

After all, healthcare professionals are the principal users of clinical information systems, not the technocrats. If a system does not fit into clinician workflow, itdoesn't matter how advanced the technology is - doctors will not use it.

Hospital CIOs who may have been terminated prematurely precisely because of the physician-computer conundrum may find solace in a second new HIMSS book, Career Success in Healthcare Information Technology, by Betsy S. Hersher and Linda B. Hodges (2004, HIMSS, ISBN 0-9725371-5-5).

While admitting these are challenging times for healthcare IT professionals, this book offers career planning and development advice. The authors believe IT workers should take heart, since the evolution of the healthcare industry has placed healthcare IT professionals in unprecedented demand.

"The job market in healthcare IT is wide open due to significant outside influences, including demands from government (i.e., HIPAA), business coalitions such as LeapFrog, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and the general public," they said.