Athenahealth Launches Campaign 'Let Doctors Be Doctors'

Effort Shows What's Wrong with Electronic Record-Keeping

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Athenahealth, a healthcare technology company, this week is launching a campaign with a disruptive message: The healthcare industry needs to stop focusing so much on electronic record-keeping so clinicians can do their jobs better.

The integrated campaign, "Let Doctors Be Doctors," was created by content agency Ari Merkin, Miami, and includes print, online and radio, with some spot TV planned for the future. The campaign budget was undisclosed.

The ads use humor to show how doctors and healthcare providers are not able to provide effective care for their patients because they spend too much time on computers doing electronic health records (EHRs). Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, healthcare providers are given incentives to use health information technology (HIT), including EHRs, for patient record-keeping.

"We built it as a call to action to everyone in the healthcare industry to wake up and demand better services from HIT in general," said Cindy Klein Roche, VP-marketing at Athenahealth, which provides cloud-based EHR and other healthcare services. "Health IT should be built to serve clinicians, but it is incredibly frustrating and woefully inadequate."

Ms. Klein Roche pointed to research showing that as a result of having to do electronic record-keeping, more than 70% of doctors are spending less time with patients. Another study of emergency-room physicians found that ER doctors spent an average of 44% of their time on data entry and only 28% of their time on direct patient contact.

The ads show, in a satirical way, the effect this is having on patient care.

In one 15-second video, parents come into the living room to find their young son typing furiously into a computer. "Honey look, he's playing doctor," says the mom. The boy looks up impatiently and holds up a hand for them to wait.

In another ad, two young women are sitting at a deserted bar, where there are "slim pickins" in the man department. In desperation, one of them asks a nerdy-looking guy what he does for a living. "I stare at a computer screen all day." The women instantly become interested. "Oh, so you're a doctor," says one flirtatiously.

"Lots of other plays in this space talk about how their product will help you succeed, but they rarely ever acknowledge what physicians are up against," said Ari Merkin, founder and creative director at Ari Merkin, Miami. "Doctors are under water, they have too much to track and too much compliance to keep up with. We were on a mission to change that, or at the very least challenge it as a reality."

The online videos are available on YouTube, and they are also running as pre-roll video ads on sites including The Atlantic, The Economist, Forbes, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.Print ads are running in publications including American Family Physician, The Atlantic, Medical Economics and Physicians Practice. The campaign also includes national and spot radio ads on NPR, and may also include spot TV in the future, Ms. Roche said.

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