Viewpoint: Why one doctor became his own IT director


Many physicians worry that if they install an electronic health record system, they will also have to become computer geeks to keep it operating. I've learned that you don't need to be IT-savvy, but you'll be happier if you are.

I have always been a person who likes a challenge and is willing to try something new to enhance my patient care. I made the decision in 2004 to purchase an EHR as I launched my own private practice in Iowa, and I installed it in my two offices with the help of my computer-savvy son and his friend. It was the first time I learned what a "Cat 5" cable was.

The following week, my EHR vendor installed the software and trained the staff through internet classes. We went live one week after opening our practice.

I've learned a tremendous amount over the last five years about how our IT system works and how to correct the problems that occasionally crop up. I get in the office by 7:30 a.m. and boot up my laptop and the nurses' computers. In most cases, I can have any problem solved before the first patients arrive.

I've also developed sound IT habits along the way: backing up my system daily, rotating my backup tapes on a weekly basis, and performing routine system maintenance on the server and local desktops. I have easily integrated this into my office routine, and it takes only a few minutes each day.

I knew I had come a long way as my own tech specialist when my son commented that I really know a lot about computers now. But it's not just me: Any physician who has used a computer and is patient and willing to watch and listen to instructions can easily maintain a system. It might be the best thing you can do for your practice as well as for your patients.

Jim Selenke, MD, is a family physician in Hudson, Iowa. Learn more about his do-it-yourself approach to managing a practice beginning on "The Practicing Excellence: A small-town, rural doctor embraces technology." . Send your feedback to

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