Paging Dr. Luddite


A recent piece in the Los Angeles Times just goes to show how much room for improvement there is in the medical business…that is, the medical establishment. (Sometimes I have to remind myself.) The gist of the article is that doctors are among the most resistant to using email. Teachers, professors, lawyers – even car mechanics are more likely to use email as a way to improve and increase communication with their students, clients and customers. Yet when it comes to giving patients a helping hand by opening up the lines of communication, the medical establishment is exceptionally hesitant. Evidently, this “new” email technology is so advanced, you’ll just have to be (pun alert)…patient.

One of the Bees put it bluntly: “What is it with the medical industry’s refusal to join the world we all actually live in?”

Now, I understand that hospitals might be worried about their practitioners being inundated or wasting precious time. Like teachers, cops and nurses, docs have plenty of paperwork to do already. Here’s the obvious challenge: doesn’t that signify a need for innovation, not resistance?

Frankly, I was surprised when my G.P. volunteered his personal email address. (He’s one of the scant 25% of doctors who use email with patients.) I’ve challenged him on some things, sent him some studies, and he’s gained insights. Likewise, I’ve learned really valuable “insider” information about drugs, medical history, and what doctors really think about their patients.

Hospital and HMO executives say that the “danger” of email is that it could become very time-intensive and run the risk of burdening doctors with administrative questions instead of health questions. There’s also the issue of liability. And of being a grown-up.

But the Times article found that, generally at least, doctors are open to email. Here’s the real deal: It’s not the doctors who have a problem with it – it’s the executives. These are big boys and girls, and when they cop to pathetic excuses like “these things are just very new” – I’m actually embarrassed for them. Very new? Yes, just like cell phones and CDs.

Wouldn’t email be a great way to make the patient and doctor invest more in each other? I’m sure some whiz 20-year-old out there could even come up with some cool community interface not unlike what we’re doing here.

Of course, that would require taking some responsibility.

Get with the program!

[tags] Mark Sisson, Los Angeles Times, medical establishment, doctors, email, HMO, technology, medical industry, hospitals, innovation, healthcare [/tags]

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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4 thoughts on “Paging Dr. Luddite”

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  1. Doctors dont email because they have nothing to email. If they prescribed a healthy lifestyle then email would almost be a necessity… Oh boy I can’t wait till this day!

  2. Mark,

    You know I’m not one for volunteering to see my G.P. without some time wallowing in discomfort. I’ll self-classify myself as a stubborn patient.

    And I have a love/hate relationship with email…I like it when I get something from friends, but mostly it’s junk.

    I’m not sure I want my dr and my email account in cahoots against me. 🙂


  3. Hi Mark,

    As someone who works in healthcare (in Service Improvement/CQI) I can tell you that part of the reason doctors don’t like e-mail (and “new” technology as a general rule) is because they HATE change. (Yes, I’m generalizing all over the place here).

    They are the worst of the control freaks. The more specialized the doctor, the worse this tends to be as well. Surgeons…Nightmare. I watched a group of them moan for ages about needing a more user-friendly OR mangement system, only to get almost entirely to the “Go Live” point and decide they hated it because “It doesn’t look like the old system”. I kid you not, they made them re-design it to look like the old system.

    We call them the “Weirdos”. They can split atoms, but can’t tie shoe laces.

    The healthcare industry is always trailing behind other industry sectors in automation. Honestly, Paper files and letters, still…it does my head in.

  4. Hi Mark,

    I am the office manager at a psychiatric practice. Patients are often stymied by our policy of “no business email.” However, email opens the doctors to a far greater risk of HIPPA confidentiality violations. Many of our patients have boundary issues and would send fifty emails a day if they had a medication management issue or other problem. The doctors at our practice have a hard enough time keeping up with voicemails – email is just not an option. I don’t think psychiatrists are going to be open to email anytime soon.

    Tora Stark
    Portland, OR