How to Close the Doctor-Patient Digital Divide

How to Close the Doctor-Patient Digital Divide

When it comes to eCare, patients are way ahead of their doctors. During the summer of 2015 Neilsen surveyed 5014 patients and 626 physicians. Among the specific results found are that while 36% of patients would like 24/7 access to telephone advice, only 14% currently have it.

Text reminders for appointments are desirable for 28% of the surveyed patients but only 9% can get reminders sent to their phones. Only 11% are able to ask questions online of their health care providers but 30% would like that ability. The numbers are higher for physician access to Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) themselves from the patients’ perspective: 61% say their doctors are able to access EMRs and 77% think doctors should have that capability. In surveying physicians, Neilsen found in general that doctors are very low users themselves of telemedicine and more than half don’t think it’s important or even good for their patients and they don’t recommend it often.

Since then, things haven't changed much to close the doctor-patient digital divide.

The doctor-patient adoption gap is but one of many. Here are 10 reasons why your doctor won't text you.

Treatment for the problem, like most prescriptions, will vary from patient to patient, but there are some treatment guidelines.

1. Focus on making digital health a subsegmented academic domain.

2. Mandate digital health education in medical school and residency.

3. Craft a specific value proposition for the scientists, engineers, lawyers, businesspeople, and health professionals.

4. Create better networks and better products that have proven clinical efficacy that results in improved workflow that saves time, not wastes it.

5. Create better knowledge exchange programs.

6. Offer better experiential learning opportunities.

7. Focus on creating user defined value, not investor defined companies.

8. Prototype and simulate to verify and validate.

9. Expand bioentrepreneurship education and training programs.

10. Reward faculty digital health innovation scholarship.

Most importantly, doctors don't practice eCare mostly because they don't have to. For them to practice eCare using state of the art digital health technologies, it needs to rise to the standard of care and doctors need to be held accountable for deviating from the standard. For that to happen, we need compelling value propositions that address a specific patient need, champions to innovate, teams to move it forward and organizations to align strategies, goals and incentives. Most of that will depend on changing the rules to catalyze ecosystems.

Doctors will use digital health technologies when it has been demonstrated to add value, improve workflow, generate revenue, reduce liability and allow them to spend more face time with patients

Doctors are not resisting eCare because they are lazy Luddites, uninformed or unwilling to help patients using state of the art medical and information technologies. They simply are not convinced that they should be part of the standard medical armamentarium, any more so than the latest robot or laser that is new and shiny. There is still a lot of irrational exuberance around digital health and docs don't want to buy into the hype. Entrepreneurs need to check some boxes too.

While we are taking steps to introduce new digital health technologies, it takes years for medical standards to evolve and adopted and eCare will be no different. Don't rush it. It took almost 50 years for doctors to use stethoscopes after they were invented. It might not take that long to kill it.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

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  • Helen Edwards

    Patients are becoming increasingly disgruntled in our current healthcare system.

  • Andrew Weekes

    We should do more to bridge that divide.

  • Peter Clarke

    We must put the humanity back into our medical care.

  • Scott Andrews

    Patients are not free of blame here either. They must be honest with their physicians.

  • Alberto Galdamez

    Doctors and patients need to become good listeners.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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