Is Computing Knowledge a Mandatory Skill for Doctors?

dovetail-computer

Computers – whether portable or otherwise – have become indispensable for many of our daily activities. As consumers, we use computers to shop, bank, play and communicate with others. Most organizations cannot function without computers today, whether or not the actual business has anything to do with technology.

The healthcare industry has been slow to adopt computers compared to other business sectors. However government led legislation, incentive programs and business requirements have pushed medical professionals towards using computers. Doctors use EHRs for managing patient records and practice management software for their clinic. In many states, medical professionals are required to access state databases to monitor specific drugs and medications before prescribing them to patients.

The transition to computers and by extension away from paper has been a long time coming. There is no doubt that quite a few medical professionals need training to adapt to the new systems. One of the key advantages of the old paper-based systems is that doctors, nurses and other users are comfortable with it. It was a familiar interface that many had been using for decades. But given that today’s doctors have to use computers for a variety of processes and tasks, it begs the question – should knowledge of computers be mandatory for doctors?

Complying with State and Federal Legislation

This is perhaps the biggest reason why doctors should have computing knowledge. There are many state specific and federal regulations that require using computers to comply with requirements. For instance, many states have set up electronic monitoring systems to prevent misuse of drugs. Doctors are required to check with the systems before prescribing certain medication, especially to high-risk patients. Medical professionals who do not know how to handle computers will find it difficult to comply.

Similarly HIPAA lays out strict requirements for maintaining the confidentiality,’s privacy and security of patient records. Under this act, medical professionals have to use secure communication methods when contacting patients. Whether you are a general physician,  specialist or nurse, knowing how to use a computer is essential.

Stay up to Date with Medical Research and Advancements

Doctors – like many other professionals – are required to continue and update their education throughout their careers. This would include attending seminars, reading newsletters, publications and otherwise advancing their knowledge of the field. Medical breakthroughs and drug research is happening faster than ever. New treatment options, therapies and prescription drugs are becoming available for various illnesses. In order to provide the best treatment options for their patients, it is clear that medical professionals have to keep up with the latest research in healthcare.

However many of the research publications and journals have long since transitioned away from the print media. Today knowledge is shared and disseminated through online blogs, electronic research papers and databases. In some cases, these publications are only available through electronic means. While some organizations continue to offer print alternatives, that option may no longer be available in the future.

Improving Patient Outcomes

Many patients in the healthcare system have multiple care providers, sometimes for the same illness. Keeping records in electronic format makes it easy to transmit necessary information to all members of the care team. Patients are able to take their records with them when they moved to a new doctor or when they’re referred to a specialist. The convenience afforded by electronic documentation is unparalleled. It is especially useful for small children and senior citizens whose care is often managed by other individuals.

As you can see, lack of computing knowledge is a severe handicap for medical professionals. It may take time and effort to learn about computers but there is no doubt that it will pay off!