Healthcare IT

Family MDs and Technology

Last month’s Wall Street Journal (“Faltering Family MDs get Technology Lifeline“) has an interesting article about how small-practice physicians are using technology as a weapon against the economies of scale which physicians working for large-scale practices enjoy. The article tells the story of Dr. Gordon Moore. When he worked at a large, hospital-owned medical practice, Dr. Moore soon became fed up with the time pressure to see over 30 patients per day and decided to start his own solo practice.

Patients at [Dr. Moore’s] “micropractice” can call or email to get appointments the same day. Visits last 30 minutes. Dr. Moore can be reached day or night on his cellphone. To refill a prescription, he walks “zero feet,” he says, and taps a few keys on his laptop. “I was able to build a Norman Rockwell practice with a 21st-century information-technology backbone,” he says…

In the summer of 1998, Dr. Moore attended a talk on how technology could be used to improve medical “work flow,” and another by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who talked about how a local bike shop got lean by cutting its area by 75% and still thrived. The professor suggested similar stripping of overhead would work in other fields.

In early 2001, after considerable anxiety about the decision, Dr. Moore opened a solo practice in an airless 150-square-foot room in a small office building. By keeping a tight lid on overhead costs, he hoped to see fewer patients — no more than about a dozen a day — and provide them better care, and still earn a decent wage for a doctor.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians has an interesting chart demonstrating that fewer U.S. medical School graduates are filling family-medicine residency programs.