Blumenthal: Even older doctors will learn to embrace EHRs

Dr. David Blumenthal, President Obama's choice as national coordinator for health IT, believes that his fellow physicians ultimately will rise to the challenge of adopting electronic health records when they see that the technology can help improve the practice of medicine. It is a task "that is perfectly consonant with their ideal of professionalism and the traditional notions of American physicians, which is that they desire and are obligated to do everything they can to make care better for their patients," Blumenthal says in an interview with American Medical News.

It certainly will take some prodding, however. "I think older physicians--and I'm one of them, so I speak from personal knowledge--have to learn how to use an electronic health record," says Blumenthal, 60. He admits having to turn to to younger colleagues to help him learn system at Massachusetts General Hospital over the past 10 years. "The way to do this right is to put in place an infrastructure that helps at least some physicians, the ones who need it, like myself, to become effective users of an electronic health record," Blumenthal suggests.

He frames the Bush administration's goal of getting interoperable EHRs to most Americans by 2014--reiterated and expanded to "all Americans" this year by Obama--as simply a goal, and not a hard timetable, and said that the new administration is taking a different tack than its predecessor. The objective of getting physicians and hospitals to use computers came to assume a value independent of what I think its real purpose is, which is to make doctors better doctors, hospitals better hospitals, consumers more informed purchasers, and the health care system better," Blumenthal says of the Bush strategy.

Blumenthal also says that his office is "working on redesigning the certification system," in part to address criticisms about the continued high cost of EHRs.

To learn more about Blumenthal's philosophy and strategy:
- read the complete AMNews interview