Clinical News

Why It Is Essential for Today's Doctor to Have Computer Skills

Why It Is Essential for Today's Doctor to Have Computer Skills

In today’s day and age, technology is everywhere and it continues to advance. So it is no wonder that with the rising reliance on technology, countless professions have begun to rely on computers. Having computer skills nowadays is essential because it allows you to perform your work more efficiently and become familiar with programs that are used on a global level. Light computer skills may refer to something as simple as sending an email or surfing the internet, while strong computer skills may refer to web design or graphic design. In healthcare, medical practices are shifting towards electronic systems for insurance claims, billing, electronic medical records, patient appointments, and more. All patient information is filed away and managed in databases, spreadsheets are used to insert patients’ medical records, and computers are used to scan and provide detailed imaging of organs.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report on National Health Expenditure, national health spending is expected to reach $4.6 trillion dollars! As the healthcare industry continues to grow, healthcare professionals must be able to keep up with and meet the challenges that derive from running the healthcare industry smoothly. As a doctor, you need to present several abilities, such as the ability to draw blood, conduct physical checkups, use a stethoscope, diagnose medical conditions, prescribe medications, build and solidify relationships with patients, as well as provide quality care. However, did you know that the ability to use computers is just as important? While computer skills do not directly help your patients, they are a key factor in your everyday duties and responsibilities as a healthcare professional. Here’s how:

  • Internet research – Today, over 90% of patients use the internet to look up health related information. They often come into your office, ready with information that they have read online. While some of this information may be accurate, this is rarely the case. The fact of the matter is that there are countless sources of medical information online and it can be difficult to decipher what is accurate and what isn’t. This is where you come in. By effectively navigating the internet, you can locate these sources of information and cancel out poor wellness tips or medical advice given. Moreover, the online environment serves as an area to continue your medical education. If you wish to stay up to date on the latest medical news and events or even upload your license / certificates for the patient community to see, online is where you should be.
  • Electronic medical records – Medical records, a primary factor in patient care, are being converted from paper to electronic. As a doctor, you must be able to work alongside this transition and deal with the aspects of such systematic implementations. For instance, typing with speed and accuracy is vital to workflow. This shows that you can easily learn software and computerized coding, medical billing, and scheduling. As patient information is being filed within electronic forms, not knowing how to type quickly and accurately can be of a great disadvantage to you and your medical practice. Yet, being able to support your existing skills and expertise by optimizing computer performance will be invaluable to your current process and can lead to fast improvement in new training methods or system developments.
  • Email – Phones may be the primary source of communication among the medical field; however, emails are picking up the pace as well. Emails serve as a way to initiate instant communication among you, your staff members, and your patients. As an occupational skill, emailing cannot be stressed enough. If you want to provide quality care and build lasting relationships with patients, you need to be able to provide a service that will show current and prospective patients you will be by their side. All patients want a doctor who will hear out their medical concerns and answer any questions that they might have. For several patients, email may be the determining factor for whether they will choose to seek your services or seek out another healthcare professional.
  • Social media – Nowadays, establishing an online presence is crucial to growing your credibility as a healthcare professional. As more and more patients are turning to the internet for answers, your online reputation is one of the first things that they will notice. Most patients read online reviews about doctors, staff members, and medical practices from the shared experiences of other individuals. Since most believe that there is no reason why others would lie about their experiences, they believe them. This means that patient expectations are based on other patients’ experiences and they are strong because they form an impression of you. Moreover, as patients are researching healthcare professionals online, it is important that they are able to find you within the first few pages of Google’s search engine results. If you think about it, even when you yourself have been searching for something on Google, rarely have you gone past page 5 or 6, right? The same goes for your patients. In this changing world of digitalization, your participation within social media channels is relevant now more than ever. The good news is that it is never too late to get involved and build your online presence.

Here is an example of a case where a healthcare professional had to surrender her license due to poor computer skills - Dr. Anna Konopka, an 84 year old physician, uses folders filled with handwritten reports and insists that her system works just fine for managing patients’ medical records. However, the New Hampshire Board of Medicine disagrees with this statement. Dr.Konopka was forced to surrender her license due to allegations made against her, regarding an old case of a 7 year old asthmatic patient. According to the state, Konopka left dosage levels up the parents and failed to treat the patient with inhaled steroids on a daily basis. What’s more, it appears as if she failed to register with the state’s mandatory drug monitoring programme. Konopka does not have a computer, nor does she know how to use one. She states that computers are expensive and while she understands the modern medical environment and is willing to learn to use a computer, she is not prepared to spend the money to create an electronic record system for her practice. Konopka has built a loyal patient following in New London due to her genuine concern, hands-on approach, and willingness to provide quality care. While her patients adore her, her knowledge of today’s era of digitalization has singled her out, causing her to lead an ongoing battle with the state.

In 2012, the average salary for medical service managers – professionals who run a hospital, clinic or medical practice – was $88,580 dollars. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this occupation is estimated to grow over 23% within the next 5 years, in accordance with the increased percentage of individuals with health insurance and the growing demand for healthcare services. Likewise, job occupations of registered health information technicians and medical record coordinators are also expected to grow at the same rate. With countless changes occurring within the healthcare industry, it is vital for you and your staff members to be familiar with the basics of word processing and software such as Microsoft word, Microsoft Excel, and WordPerfect. Having proficient computer skills, in terms of managing databases, writing reports, scheduling patient appointments, processing billing transactions, creating/suggesting personalized diagnoses and treatment plans, as well as handling written forms of communication (ex: email) is and will continue to be vital for the proper operations of hospitals, clinics, and medical practices. New technological advancements will help you to perform your job better – more quickly, more precisely, and based on hard facts. Eventually, this will lead to lower costs, reduced workload, improved decision-making, as well as improved patient care.