Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Why do doctors adopt an innovation?

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Sep• 20•11

You’re a researcher.  You just came up with a new medical treatment that is far superior to the previous treatment.  How do you get physicians to adopt your method/technology?

Most researchers believe that providing the physician with evidence of the new treatment superiority is the number one factor driving adoption.  In a presentation at this year’s AHRQ’s 2011 Annual Conference, I found out this is not the case at all.  Evidence is important.  Physicians, however, are much more likely to adopt a new technique/innovation if it has three characteristics:

  • Low cost
  • Simplicity
  • Compatibility

In reality, all three of these factors deal with cost.  The first examines the acquisition cost, the second deals with the time cost to learn to use the new procedure, and the third describes the cost of integrating the new technique within existing operations.  These costs generally can be accurately estimated for most innovations.

On the other hand, most evidence cites benefits for patients or other stakeholders.  Even if an innovation claims to be cost-effective from the provider’s perspective, physicians must risk that these promises will not come to pass.

The seminal technology adoption study examines the spread of hybrid corn in Iowa.  Although there was significant evidence that hybrid corn was better than the status quo, there was still significant risk to the farmer since the hybrid corn was much more expensive than regular corn.  It took the adoption of a thought leader for hybrid corn adoption to truly spread.  This is why pharmaceutical companies spend so much money to get respected docs to endorse their products; it leads to more rapid spread of their drug than can even be accomplished by direct-to-consumer advertising.

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