In what ways has new technology changed the healthcare landscape and how clinicians practice medicine?
New technology affects physicians on a daily basis, from mandates from the government to coding and billing, according to Dr. Bhatia. Important though these are, however, Dr. Bhatia believes that clinicians should make decisions about incorporating new technology based on how it suits their own practices and business models. “We have to make sure that the implementation of technology is appropriate for our practices and our patients,” says Dr. Bhatia. “In other words, it’s important for doctors not to get in over their heads and to move forward slowly,” he continues. Clinicians should think about a host of factors when considering new technology, such as incentive codes, staff training, customization, etc. “All of these are expensive and time-consuming when added up, and the costs always fall on the clinician.” Another aspect to consider is how technology impacts clinicians’ relationships to parties outside the practice. “Pharmacies, for example, are not as regulated or motivated as physicians to meet the demands of e-prescribing, and there is potential for that relationship to be placed under some strain, especially if clinicians are bearing the costs for electronic prescribing,” he notes.
How are recent changes to technology affecting how dermatologists interact with patients?
Despite the challenges of adopting new technology in practice, several advantages present themselves, too. “In the old model, clinicians did not have the ability to cross-check communication with paper notes. The upside to electronic charts is that you know who’s been told, who’s made a note, and when these activities took place. Outside of e-charts, email alerts and text updates can help maintain relationships with patients that would not otherwise follow up with care,” Dr. Bhatia says. There is an important caveat, however. “For many patients, these features are not perks but expectations,” says Dr. Bhatia, and this can be too difficult to implement (in the case of some older physicians) and/or too costly. “Patients want the convenience of technology but they don’t want to pay for it. Therefore, meeting patient demands can become both a logistical challenge and cost burden for physicians,” says Dr. Bhatia.
What is your advice to colleagues on staying ahead of the technology curve?
Although meeting outside demands can be onerous, Dr. Bhatia notes that, “The other side of the coin is that you don’t want to be left behind and making it up on volume.” For newer physicians, Dr. Bhatia sees a tendency to try to do everything at once when it comes to implementing technology, which can also backfire. “You don’t want to dive into a pool that you can’t swim in,” he says, observing that both individually and in general, the adaptation to new technological planes is inevitably slow, but necessary. It can be a difficult balance to strike, but Dr. Bhatia insists technology’s role in medicine is changing and that the onus is on physicians to understand how it can make them more efficient. “Technology changes everything from how we are reimbursed to how we interact with pharmacies and patients, so we need to maintain a healthy balance of efficiency and thoroughness without risking liability or scrutiny of patient care.”