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Which Doctors Use More Digital Widgets? Hint: The Same Ones Who Play(ed) Video Games

This news flash from the land of no surprises… The Journal of The American Medical Informatics Association recently published a study analyzing physician use of online technology. They hypothesized that certain types of physician specialists (such as dermatologists?) would display higher adoption rates of Internet-based communication technology (including things like social media platforms, podcasts, health apps, and widgets). But instead they discovered that adoption of these technologies was correlated with male gender, younger age, and practicing medicine in an academic hospital setting. In other words, young geeky dudes are the ones who are most likely to use techie medical widgets. Who’d have guessed?

All kidding aside (and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a middle-aged, female physician who does not practice medicine in an academic setting. I have a blog, a podcast show, and was recently rated one of the top 10 MDs to follow on Twitter – so I must be a serious, category-blowing geek), this does have implications for healthcare. First of all, according to the US Department of Labor, ~80% of family healthcare decisions are made by women, and we consume a disproportionate amount of healthcare resources too. So in my opinion, healthcare technologies should be built by/for women and marketed to them more aggressively. Because if we’re trying to drive adoption of these things to streamline care, facilitate access, and reduce utilization, then we’ve gotta get the ladies on board too.

This study only confirms to me that we’re not there yet – guys are still more likely to use health apps/widgets, etc. But just as “progress” has been made in the video gaming industry (where only 12% of gamers were girls in 2001, that has grown to 40% in 2009) I think we can make similar gains in healthcare. And it’s for a much better cause than “getting really good at playing Grand Theft Auto.” Health apps have the potential to help people manage their diseases and conditions, avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor, and get them to the right healthcare provider at the right time.

So all you geeky (I say that with the utmost respect as a geek myself of course), male software developers out there – please befriend a few female physicians and work with us to get the tech trends moving in the right female direction. We’re all together in this game of life, right? ;-)

AMIA: Why The “Hold Harmless” Clause In EMR Contracts Is Unethical

Last Friday the board of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) published a position paper in its journal saying that the “hold harmless” clause is unethical. One of the paper’s authors is Dr. Danny Sands, currently President of the Society for Participatory Medicine. I hope to write more about it this week, after attending the AMIA conference in DC, but here’s the basic issue:

– For ages, makers of electronic medical record systems (EMR) have insisted on a “hold harmless” clause in the contracts a system buyer must sign. It says, in essence, that if any harm comes to anyone because of a system problem, the buyer (the hospital) will hold the manufacturer harmless.

– In other words, if anything goes wrong with the system and someone gets hurt, it’s not the manufacturer’s fault. The reasoning has been: “Hey, you doctors are smart. If our system displays a wrong value, you’re supposed to notice it.”

I’m told this policy has been one big impediment to adoption of EMR systems, because it removes all motivation for vendors to fix things that make their product hard to use: If there’s a bug or the system slows someone down, and a patient gets hurt, the hospital gets sued, not the vendor.

If you were a hospital, wouldn’t that make you eager to buy? What would that do to your trust of the vendor? Patients, how do you feel about that? Providers? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at e-Patients.net*

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