EHR mandates are not driving doctors from their practices

June 3, 2015

Many doctors don’t much like electronic health records (EHR), as I’ve commented earlier, and some observers have believed EHR mandates are driving as many as 360,000 physicians from the profession. Dan Diamond at Forbes has a different take. He writes that rather than losing that many doctors, we have gained nearly 100,000 practicing physicians over the past six years.

The doctors who are leaving, he writes, are not doing so because of EHRs but rather because they are aging. “For the first time,” he notes, “the number of U.S. physicians in their mid-50s (or older) has outpaced the number of physicians between the ages of 35 and 54. Not all of these older doctors are still in practice, but a surprising number have stayed in the workforce.”

They do so, he says, because of money—they want to recover the sunk costs of becoming a doctor. And as the economy improves, retirement begins to look more attractive for those reaching retirement age.

Diamond quotes Julia Adler-Milstein, a University of Michigan professor, as telling Congress, “We know that when some physicians adopt EHR systems, they are worse off—slower, less efficient, struggling to provide high-quality care. But for others, the experience is very different: they see big gains in productivity and the quality of care they provide.

“Why do some do so well with technology while others struggle? The answers are not as simple as age or tech savviness. It’s likely much more about how the IT is used, and the context in which it is used.”

Ultimately, Diamond writes, “Fighting against digital records is like fighting the sun. The era of EHR is rising because it needs to.”

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