Doctor, 84, Who Doesn't Use Computer Won't Get License Back

Marcia Frellick

November 30, 2017

An 84-year-old physician who doesn't use a computer has been denied reinstatement of her medical license by a New Hampshire judge.

Anna Konopka, MD, from New London, New Hampshire, had surrendered her license in September after 46 years in private practice in advance of a disciplinary hearing before the New Hampshire Board of Medicine.

Dr Anna Konopka sits in her tiny office in New London, New Hampshire. Michael Casey/AP

However, she subsequently asked in a court hearing that it be reinstated, claiming that she had been pressured to relinquish it. Merrimack County Superior Court Judge John Kissinger denied the request on November 15.

Dr Konopka told Medscape Medical News that she filed a new motion November 22 asking for reversal of the latest decision, this time attaching notarized letters from about 30 patients who attested to the quality of her practice. She is awaiting a ruling on that motion.

She does not have a computer in her office or a secretary or nurse, and keeps handwritten records — she was treating about 20 patients a week — in file drawers.

"Electronic medicine has no place in medicine at all," she said. "It's good for the system, not for the patients."

The state is concerned about her remedial computer skills, partly because they prevent her from using the state's mandatory electronic drug monitoring program. The program, which the state launched in 2014, requires prescribers of opioids to register with it as part of an effort to cut down on prescribing.

The state had also challenged Dr Konopka's record keeping, prescribing, and some medical decisions.

Allegations against Dr Konopka started with a complaint about her treatment of a 7-year-old patient with asthma, according to court documents filed May 3, 2017.

She was accused of improper recording practices, leaving dosing of one medication up to the parents, and not treating with daily inhaled steroids. Dr Konopka said she never harmed the patient and that the boy's mother disregarded her instructions, but agreed to a reprimand.

Four more complaints have since been filed against Dr Konopka, the Associated Press reports.

Dr Konopka says she provided medical services for people without other options, many of whom have multiple complications. She charged a flat fee of $50 for an office visit, which was all that most of her patients could afford. She stopped accepting insurance about 3 years ago because of electronic reporting requirements and because "they were trying to control my practice."

"War on the Private Physician"

She describes demands for what she calls electronic medicine as a "war on the private physician" and says she practices "a traditional kind of medical art." She said she was working to teach herself enough basic skills to be able to participate in the drug monitoring registry. But she says she has no interest in changing over to electronic records or looking for diagnostic support from the Internet.

According to a spokesperson for the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the AAFP supports implementation and use of prescription drug monitoring programs.

She cited policy that also states  that the AAFP "believes that every family physician should leverage health information technology, which includes electronic health records and related technologies needed to support the patient-centered medical home (PCMH). These capabilities can support and enable optimal care coordination, continuity, and patient centeredness, resulting in safe, high quality care and optimal health of patients, families, and communities."

Patients Search for New Care

Meanwhile, in the small town of 4400, Dr Konopka fears what leaving her patients, many of whom are taking pain medications, will mean for them.

"All my patients are waiting for me. They are desperate," she said. "They are having difficulty finding someone to take care of them."

Superior Court documents denying her request to reinstate her license also acknowledged her commitment to her patients.

"The court has admiration for Dr. Konopka's devotion to her patients," the judgment states. "Several of her patients were in attendance at the hearing. It is clear to the court that Dr. Konopka has spent her career helping people in her medical practice and has a genuine commitment to address the needs of those not able to afford medical care elsewhere."

As Medscape Medical News was talking with Dr Konopka, she received a knock at her office door and put the phone down. The son of a former patient who had since passed away had stopped by to say hello.

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