Sure, there are doctors who are knee-deep in clinical informatics work. Others may not work in IT full-time, but they keep an eye on IT developments and feel comfortable using new technology.
Then, of course, there are physicians who only interact with technology when they must (and yes this is probably the biggest group). They skim or even ignore technology articles in their favorite magazines and journals, and you’re not likely to see them comparing notes on the advantage of one EHR vs. another. In other words, when it comes to health IT, they’re definitely not trendy.
Even so, I was surprised to see how many physicians were out of the loop when it came to blockchain technology. According to a poll by physician-oriented site SERMO, which asked whether blockchain was ready to enter the healthcare world 25% said yes and 28% said no, but a far larger number (47%) responded that they weren’t aware of this technology.
I have a few theories as to why this is the case:
- Though many vendors are experimenting with integrating blockchain into EHRs, working models are far from common at this point
- Most physicians are overwhelmed by using EHRs as they currently exist, and aren’t too likely to contemplate adding even more complexity to their platform
- Too few of their actual peers — practicing doctors working in traditional settings — have attempted to explain the basics of blockchain tech
- Even high-level health IT experts are still grappling with the problem of how, exactly, healthcare tools can benefit from incorporating blockchain
The truth is, it’s not too surprising to see that many doctors have tuned out blockchain discussions, and probably other bleeding edge technologies like AI as well. Until these technologies are more mature, and vendors can demonstrate a day-to-day use for them, why would your average physician take time out of their crazy day to ponder what the health IT whiz kids are talking about this week?
And honestly, until someone can demonstrate that blockchain offers real benefits to practicing physicians, I think they’re actually wise to step back from it for the time being. Unless they are natural techies who really want to experiment with blockchain options, there’s little for them to gain from pursuing a topic. Right now, it doesn’t affect them much.
Yes, the time will come when blockchain features are incorporated into EHRs, and vendors can demonstrate why this matters. In the meantime, physicians’ indifference seems very logical.