Wall Street Journal Examines Market for Diagnostic Tools Among Doctors
The Wall Street Journal on Monday examined how advocates of "diagnostic-decision support software" -- technology that aims to help doctors analyze patients' symptoms and make a diagnosis -- believe the devices could catch on, despite the medical community's reluctance to adopt the technology. According to the Journal, the programs allow doctors to enter a patient's basic information -- including age, sex and symptoms -- and receive a list of various diseases or conditions that could be causing the symptoms. The diagnoses can be ranked by likelihood or medical category, and some systems also allow doctors to access articles from medical journals on current research into a disease. According to the Journal, many physicians consider such software, which can cost as much as $750 annually, "too time-consuming and cumbersome" to be worth the investment. Some also are concerned that relying on computer technology increases the potential for medical errors, and as a result only 2% of doctors in the United States use the technology.
However, proponents of the technology say that as physicians become more adept at using computer technology -- through use of electronic medical records and PDAs -- acceptance of electronic diagnostic tools will grow. In addition, they say that "pressure is building from regulators, insurers and patients" to provide more-efficient and higher-quality health care, the Journal reports. Manufacturers of the software also point to the potential return on investment doctors could receive using the software, including avoiding costly medical malpractice lawsuits (Borzo, Wall Street Journal, 5/23).