4 reasons docs are slow to adopt evidence-based care

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Doctors are slow to adopt evidence-based care protocols. But why?

It can take the healthcare industry close to two decades to implement evidence-based care protocols. There are four reasons clinicians embrace new data at a “snail’s pace,” writes Kyle Jones, M.D., a faculty member at the University of Utah’s Family Medicine Residency Program, in an article for the American Academy of Family Physicians. 

“This seems absolutely ridiculous. Why wouldn't we want to do the best we can to help our patients?” he writes. “Many of the reasons are in our control, but many are not.”

The four reasons he cites are:

  • Doctors are creatures of habit. It’s hard to change how you approach your practice, Jones writes, and many doctors may never do so. But, he notes, much of what was learned by doctors in medical school years ago is likely obsolete now.
  • The pace of innovation can be overwhelming. It seems like new medical technologies crop up every day, and keeping up with the changes is hard on top of how busy most doctors are in their day-to-day work.
  • Payers and regulators may also be behind. Jones offers an example of this in action at his own practice, as patients turned up for annual pap smears because their insurer was offering a gift card to those that got the test. However, Jones told them that they don’t need the test each year. So information coming to patients from their insurers or from new regulations may also be outdated.
  • Doctors are exhausted. If you’re already burned out because of your day-to-day tasks, you won’t make significant effort to bring your practice up to date on new guidelines and innovations, Jones notes.

Though overall adoption may be slow, evidence-based practice centers are providing solutions and innovations to providers, sometimes before new guidelines have been produced. Evidence-based care solutions have been shown to reap significant benefits. At New Jersey's Kennedy Health System, for example, an evidence-based approach reduced sepsis rates and related complications.