Identifying the Generational Gap of Physicians

The past few years have been revolutionary within the medical field. Innovative technologies have changed the way physicians will forever practice medicine. A plethora of successful treatments have developed and novel technologies created by research scientists and engineers have helped physicians become more efficient and effective in their work. While these new advancements will continue to benefit many future patients, there is a distinct gap between younger and older physicians. For the purpose of the article, we will define younger physicians  as those who are more comfortable with modern technology and tend to be more tech-savvy. They have grown up with technology from a young age, while doctors of past generations had to learn the addition of technology as a means of communication and efficiency while concurrently practicing (Lim).

One specific and prevalent example of this educational gap between older and younger physicians stems from the development of electronic health records (EHR). In the past, physicians kept patient data on paper forms. Now, older physicians have adapted to new electronic means of recording data. While this may seem like a simple task for millennials and people in younger age brackets, older physicians who have practiced for many years have had an extremely difficult time learning how to efficiently manage their time and change the way they normally record important patient information. A review published in Acta Informatica Medica discusses the limitations of EHRs within the current physician population. Among the concerns shown across many articles mentioned in the review, a few common trends were seen in the elderly physician’s gripe with the new system in place. The increase in workload and the learning curve, given many older physicians’ computer skills, are both clear barriers towards efficiency in the space (Ajami). Additionally, many physicians expressed concerns over increased lack of privacy and the potential of a confidentiality breach (Ajami). While EHRs have the potential to change physician data collection and efficiency in the future, it is clear there are many concerns. That being said, technology continues to innovate every space of healthcare and medicine, ultimately for the better of the profession.

Furthermore, the way younger physicians want to practice has been differently shaped from their older peers. Many physicians in the past decade have preferred to practice in large group practices opposed to small solo practices (Figure 1).

Figure-1-Preparing-New-Generation-of-Physicians-Percent-of-Physicians-in-Small-and-Large-Group-Practices-by-Year-of-Graduation.png

The physician gender gap has also changed substantially between generations, with females representing nearly half of graduating medical school students today while they were overtly underrepresented in the times before (Muhlestein). This change is indicative of a medical population that is more representative of the whole population (Muhlestein).

Presented with the challenge of the continually changing landscape, the current state of medicine is an exciting time. Physicians are going to have to learn and cope with new technology across all scopes that, in the short-term, will show setbacks. However, the long-term changes in how physicians practice will ultimately affect medicine positively in a significant way in the years to come.

Edited by Jin Yoo.

Sources:

Ajami, S., & Bagheritadi, T. (2013). Barriers for Adopting Electronic Health Records (EHRs) by  Physicians. Acta Informatica Medica, 21(2), 129. doi:10.5455/aim.2013.21.129-134 Lagasse, J. (2018, July 12).

Lim, A., & Epperly, T. D. (2013, June 01). Generation Gap: Effectively Leading Physicians of All Ages. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2013/0500/p29.html

Muhlestein, D., PhD, JD, & Winfield, L., PhD. (2018, February 28). Preparing a New Generation of Physicians for a New Kind of Health Care. Retrieved from https://catalyst.nejm.org/preparing-new-generation-physicians-new-health-care/

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