To compute or not to compute … that is today’s question

Nov. 9, 2017

Doctors should know how to use a computer, right? Well, what if the doctor is 84 years old and practicing in a town that has less than 5,000 people?

Dr. Ann Konopka from New London, New Hampshire didn’t think she had to use a computer in her office located in a 160-year old clapboard house. She keeps her patients’ records in two filing cabinets and insists her system works fine. Now she’s lost her medical license. New Hampshire requires opioid prescribers to register for an electronic monitoring program in an effort to reduce overdoses. Konopka appeared in court Nov. 3 to try to get her license back. You can read the full news story here.

I see both sides to this story. When I first read it, I felt bad for the woman who has obviously been a doctor for a very long time in a small town (and likely has patients who need her attention), but also felt like she had quite some time to learn how to use a computer.

New London is a pretty small town. I grew up in New England, and things really do have an older feel there. I totally understand how Konopka kept running her practice like she always had—with paper records and her two filing cabinets. She knew right where the information was and could access it when she needed it. I’m sure her patients enjoyed her “old-school” ways as well. I truly can imagine my mother enjoying having a doctor who does things the old-fashioned way, like they used to be. Physicians today complain about using electronic health records (EHRs) because they spend so much time inputting information into the computer that they can’t connect with their patients on the level they truly want to. Less and less students are going into medicine, for this very reason.

On the other hand, the Institute of Medicine in 1991 set a goal that all physicians should be using computers in their practices by the year 2000. This goal wasn’t met, because only 18% of physicians were using an EHR system according to the ONC, but healthcare was going digital, and there was no way of stopping it.  So, Konopka had known this was coming … since 1991. It’s almost 2018. To say she’s behind the curve is a bit of an understatement.

So, I’m torn. The side of me who wants a caring and attentive physician says, “Give Konopka her license back!” The techie side of me says, “Konopka had more than 20 years to learn how to use a computer, this was a long time coming.”

Feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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