The Delay of Adapting Innovation in Clinical Practice

The medical world is innovating at an ever-increasing speed, especially here in the U.S. We are changing the way we keep medical records and track data about patients. New technologies are constantly being rolled out that aid in reaching clinical diagnoses as well as treatment tools. Look in any medical journal and it will be filled with these new technologies. Yet, these innovations do not come into immediate practice. The delay in adapting to newer technologies can be quite long, as we witnessed with electronic health records (EHRs).

Why is there a delay in bringing innovation into the exam room?

COST: This is perhaps the biggest factor. New technology is expensive. For small or private practices, this expense can be an overwhelming burden and may be just unaffordable to implement. In larger medical systems, the expense can be quite substantial and requires budgetary changes to be able to implement.

RISK: Adapting new technology always includes some risk. We see this when new medications are introduced to the market: Some doctors take the risk and start prescribing it immediately while others wait to see what happens.

TIME: Any change in clinical practice involves bringing the entire staff on board. This requires hours of training everyone to use the new technology and often requires some downtime from patient care to set up. For many practices, it is hard to find a block of time to accomplish this. Many implementations get kicked down the road until the “right time.”

COMPETITION: With EHRs for example, many vendors all think they are selling the best product. Because implementing such a technology requires a disruption to the practice, clinicians want to make the best choice. This requires researching the products and perhaps viewing many product demos as well as talking to users of that product. This research can take months to complete, especially as doctors are doing it while they are busy with patient care tasks.

SAFETY ISSUES: When newer technologies become available, they may be FDA approved as safe, but there is simply no track record to reassure us of the safety. Over the past several years, we saw several new medications brought to market and then withdrawn. This fact has caused many doctors to become gun shy about prescribing new innovations. As doctors, one of our biggest jobs is to ensure patient safety and we just do not want to establish a shoddy track record on our own patients.

LACK OF DOCTOR INPUT: Many products are developed without physician input. They may be great in theory but fail in the real practice of medicine. No one wants a change to his/her practice that will impede their workflow. Only doctors can say how a product will function on the front lines.

Technology and innovation are transforming the healthcare landscape. While it may be slow in coming, these innovations are going to revolutionize the way we practice medicine. And doctors need to lead the metamorphosis to 21st century medicine.

  • Linda Girgis, MD, FAAFP

    Linda Girgis, MD, FAAFP, is Owner of Girgis Family Medicine LLC. Currently affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital, Linda also writes for Sermo, Physician’s Weekly, the Library of Medicine, and others.


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