Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Will the tech savvy of newer docs improve care coordination?

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The generational gap within the provider community is visible in the familiarity and ease with which younger physicians take to technology, both health IT and social media.

Although in his current position as the CMIO for Baylor College of Medicine he is “not in the mainstream of medical education,” Jeffrey Steinbauer, MD, sees a tremendous opportunity for improvements to care coordination built on the experience of tomorrow’s physicians who have grown up in a digital culture and used to connecting with others online.

In this companion to yesterday’s story on the growth of health information exchange (HIE) at the Texas healthcare organization, Steinbauer touches on the potential for EHR and health IT to promote greater care coordination among providers while still emphasizing the need for informal as well as formal information exchange.

Is physician education sufficiently focusing on the role of care coordination in patient-centered care?

In general, our students are taught to practice the way our attendings practice and attendings are struggling to learn some of this coordination. I hope that there will be curricula developed around this for both residents and students to make it part of the normative process of how they think about providing care — to be asking, “Where did you get your care previously?” and “What was done?” — to try to coordinate those things. But at the present time, I don’t see that as being a big thrust.

On the other hand, our students are all now taking classes to learn how to use these electronic records. In many cases, the students are better and more adept at it and certainly bond with it more quickly than some of our older faculty. It’s just part of their culture. My hope in a meta-trend sort of way is that the younger physician’s experience with social media may make the exchange of information and communication using IT with other providers more natural to them than it has been for those of us who came up when it was still paper, a pen, and a telephone.

What role could EHR technology have in making connections between providers?

In some ways, maybe the electronic record and how we share that information will take on more of a social media-type look and feel so that physicians can communicate with each other informally as well as formally.

I remember when I first started training that one of the ways I communicated with my consultants was in a doctor’s lounge, literally in the hospital where we practiced. You go in and get a cup of coffee and people would come in and chat about a case, follow up on a case, talk about the management of it, and coordinate the care. It was that kind of informal face-to-face that really helped with care coordination. That’s gone now.

Why is informal exchange as important as formal exchange of health information?

We’re getting better at formal exchange, sometimes it’s the informal exchange — it’s what is between the lines of that data —that means as much as the data itself. Our ability to find ways to share information with people we have never met or people we don’t know other than online may enhance that care in the future. My hope would be that not only would the software grow to allow us to do that but also that the students’ own cultural experience will demand it and make it readily achievable.

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