Elderly Doctor May Lose Medical License Due In Part To Lack Of Computer Skills

Do physicians need to be computer-literate to run a safe and effective medical practice? The question has come into high relief recently as an 84-year-old New Hampshire physician fights to get her medical license reinstated.

Dr. Anna Konopka, who recently lost her license due in part to a lack of computer skills, is suing the New Hampshire Board of Medicine in an effort to get it reinstated.

Back in September, Konopka had signed an agreement to surrender her license with the medical board. The agreement settled pending allegations regarding her “record-keeping, prescribing practices, and medical decision-making,” according to an article in Ars Technica. The agreement reportedly permits her to apply to regain her license, but to succeed in doing so she’d have to prove that she did no wrong.

In her interview with the publication, the elderly physician denied any misconduct and said she was under duress when she voluntarily surrendered her license previously. She has said that she wants to continue practicing medicine, but does not want to participate in what she calls “electronic medicine.”

“I am getting the patients from the system [her term for the medical bureaucracy surrounding the use of EMRs today], and I see how badly they are mistreated and misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all,” she told Ars Technica. “Therefore, I am not going to compromise patients’ lives or health for the system.”

For what it’s worth, Konopka’s troubles with the state medical board didn’t arise from computer use or lack thereof. They were triggered when a formal complaint was filed with the board alleging that she treated a young patient with asthma incorrectly.

The dispute resulted in a formal reprimand from the medical board in April 2017. The board also required her to undergo 14 hours of medical training as a condition of continuing to practice. After that, other investigations followed, including disputes over the scope of her original agreement with the medical board.

Ordinarily, Konopka’s struggles for reinstatement might never have come to public view. What differentiates them from others is the role her unwillingness to use computers has played in the process. Specifically, unless she learns to use the Internet, she won’t be able to comply with the state’s new law requiring her to access an online opiate monitoring program. (As part of her attempts to regain her license, she’s agreed to do so.)

It’s hard to tell who is right in this particular case, but the situation does raise interesting questions about the role of computer use in medical practice generally.

Should physicians be required to use computers as part of their practice in this day and age, and if so, what level of competency should they be required to attain? Are there specific pieces of software, such as EMRs, they have become as important to medicine as a stethoscope was in a prior era? Should use of health IT software be a required part of all medical training at this point?

I don’t have any answers to these questions, and you may not either. But if a doctor’s license can be threatened, even in part, by failing to use computer technology, we’d better work on finding some.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

4 Comments

  • For sure, use of health IT software should be a required part of all medical training once a physician enters the workforce – medical schools are not the place to pick up such training given there are many EMR software manufacturers.

    Solo practitioners have little choice but to arrange for needed training on their own.

    I do feel doctors should not see patients if they are unable to do mandated data sharing but no reason why they cannot voice dictate and have an assistant record observations/findings/recommendations at some computer system.

  • IT is another tool is the physician toolbox. Would you agree with the physician who refuses to use a new scalpel technology because they’ve always done it with old technology? Physicians MUST stay current with all aspects of their profession, not the ones they choose. What about the Doc who refuses to earn CME credits? Sorry, Dr Konopka, you don’t get my vote here.

  • I disagree with a physician having to stay updated with new IT systems. A physician has far more important areas to be updated with in medicine than to invest time and effort in the ever changing IT systems. It’s unfair to physicians what their roles have turned to, in 21 century: clerks, e-clerks, e-medicine slaves….

  • I think there is a nuance to this conversation that’s missed. Should doctors have to keep up with technology that enhances care, prevents mistakes, and improves communication, yes? We all agree with that.

    Should doctors be required to know how to be data entry clerks to better facilitate getting paid less, government oversight of things that don’t matter, etc? Well, we could argue this one. The problem is that doctors still want to get paid, so they have to do some of this or find technology that allows them to get paid without becoming data entry clerks. Should your license depend on this? Nope.

    Now for the real challenge. The technology is and will do both of the above. So, that means that doctors likely will have to learn the technology to have their license.

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