Abstract

Background


Alongside advances in medical information technology (IT), there is mounting physician and patient dissatisfaction with present-day clinical practice. The effect of introducing increasingly complex medical IT on the ethical dimension of the clinical physician’s primary task (identified as direct patient care) can be scrutinized through analysis of the EMR software platform.

Questions/purposes


We therefore (1) identify IT changes burdensome to the clinician in performing patient care and which therefore lower quality of care; and (2) suggest methods for clinicians to maintain high quality patient care as IT demands increase.

Methods


Elemental relationships from information theory and physical chemistry are applied to the profit-generating creation and flow of medical information between patients, physicians, administrators, suppliers, and insurers. Ethical implications for patient care and the doctor-patient relationship are drawn in the light of these relationships.

Where are we now?


Little has been accomplished, or even discussed, regarding limiting healthcare IT growth. Quality of patient care is expected to suffer unless physicians carefully scrutinize, refine and occasionally reject portions of the increasing healthcare IT burden being placed upon them.

Where do we need to go?


Better medicine, simply understood as more effective prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal disease, is our professional goal. We need to establish mechanisms whereby we can limit, control or even reverse IT changes that hinder this goal. Clinicians must confront the negative impact many healthcare IT changes have on patient care.

How do we get there?


Suggestions for maintaining high standards of practice in the face of the new IT burden include: (1) Increasing IT time-awareness. Clinicians should examine actual time spent in clinical versus computer-based activity and implement changes if that ratio is too high. (2) Increasing IT goal awareness. (3) Examine the software creating a medical record to see how much of what it records is there for financial, as opposed to medical reasons. Is the software helping my patient or someone else’s bottom line? Is it for talking to colleagues about sick people or to insurance companies?

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