Laypeople often think that the field of medicine embodies the cutting edge of science: massive institutions staffed by people with numerous fancy degrees marshaling billions of dollars in resources to develop advanced treatments for devastating diseases. Yet, the on-the-ground reality in much of the healthcare industry itself is far different. Bogged down by things like paperwork, existing workflows, and staff trained to work in a certain way, clinicians are often reticent to adopt new technology, new treatments, even new models of patient outreach. Moreover, convincing some practitioners to embrace things like medical computers or workstations on wheels, technology that a layperson would seem the bare minimum standard for a medical clinic can be like pulling teeth.

If clinician acceptance is the key to success for new technology, what drives their hesitancy to adopt new technology? Why does it take so long for the healthcare industry to adopt new technologies? 

Obstacles to Adoption

The healthcare industry’s reluctance to adopt new technology runs much deeper than most people outside of the industry realize. In fact, according to Richard Temple of the Deborah Heart and Lung Center, “healthcare has historically been seen as somewhat of a laggard as it relates to its embrace of technologies that may be much more commonplace in other industries.” While there is no single reason for this, a significant factor is clinicians. For a piece of medical technology to be successful, it must be widely adopted by clinicians. 

But of course, identifying this fundamental cause only opens up Pandora’s box. Obviously, there is no single reason that holds clinicians back from embracing a piece of new tech. However, it is possible to identify common factors that may motivate many clinicians to hesitate and even outright refuse to embrace new technology.

Upfront Expense

While purchasing decisions in larger hospitals and clinics are handled by accountants and executives within their purchasing departments, doctors and clinicians in private practice are often their own purchasing departments. As a result, it is ultimately their say if they will integrate some fancy 3-d tissue scanner or a fleet of medical computers with hot-swappable batteries into their practice. 

Like any other business person, they often make these decisions not based on a desire to have a state-of-the-art practice in-and-of-itself but on the bottom line. And often, they determine that a long-term payoff just is not worth a short-term expense. There are many reasons, some more legitimate than others, that they may make this calculation. 

Unfortunately, clinicians who make that decision are often miscalculating. For instance, some clinicians who forgo rugged medical tablets in favor of less advanced consumer-grade models often find themselves needing to replace broken units rather frequently. Moreover, those clinicians who forgo digitization altogether often don’t even realize that the long-term cost of storing paper medical records can significantly exceed the short-term expenditure of purchasing a fleet of new medical computers. 

It goes without saying that new technology cannot be successful if the clinician in charge never purchases it in the first place. Ultimately, clinicians in private practice need to look at their bottom lines more holistically. Rather than balking at the upfront cost of a fleet of new antimicrobial medical computers, look at how your current system is wasting money and how new technology could, in the long run, eliminate these inefficiencies. Often, new technology pays for itself by removing old redundancies and ancillary expenses.

Calcified Workflows

From the most extensive hospital campuses to the smallest mobile clinics, all healthcare facilities rely on well-established workflows to function on a day-to-day basis. The constant flow of patients into and out of a facility means it is quite challenging to introduce radical changes to the way things are done. 

Put simply, throwing a new digital charting system into a functioning hospital that has until now entirely relied on paper without a plan would just lead to chaos. Unfortunately, many clinicians know this intuitively and therefore are incredibly resistant to new tech that promises to promote efficiency but instead just grinds their operation to a halt in practice.

Even if you can slowly introduce the new tech with a training program, sometimes clinicians are just stuck in their ways. For instance, a facility can invest tens of thousands of dollars on a fleet of state-of-the-art medical computers powered by hot-swappable batteries designed to reduce downtime because the unit doesn’t need to be plugged into the wall for hours to charge. But suppose the clinicians who use the computers are stuck in their ways and continue to plug the units into the wall to charge the batteries, rather than replacing them with new batteries from the charging dock. In that case, the entire effort will be a failure. 

In order to overcome these obstacles, facilities need to bring their clinicians into their decision-making processes. No matter the intentions of the purchasing department, no one has a better idea of what day-to-day reality is like on the clinic floor than the clinicians themselves. Bringing them into the decision-making process means they can be involved in crafting new workflows and training programs, ensuring that they can make the technology work for them and what they do. The alternative makes them feel like new technology is being imposed on them by bureaucrats who have no understanding of how their facility actually operates.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Odd as it may sound, for all the havoc it has wreaked in society, COVID-19 has brought about positive change in this area. Suddenly, faced with the need to mitigate the spread of this new and, at the time, mysterious disease, providers everywhere had to adapt. In a world of social distancing, waiting rooms become impossible. In-person visits can only happen when necessary. 

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Or in this case, technology adoption. Thankfully, despite the industry’s reputation, we’ve seen clinicians across the globe adopt new technology into their workflows with unprecedented speed. We’ve seen clinicians who had previously on paper forms and landline telephones suddenly started seeing their patients on medical tablets via webcam and checking them in on antimicrobial touch screens. 

Hopefully, as the pandemic recedes, the willingness of clinicians to rapidly adopt new technology and workflows will not.

Final Thoughts

If you’re interested in learning about how the latest tech can help your healthcare facility or clinic, have one of your clinicians contact the experts at Cybernet today!