Anna Konopka, a doctor in New London, New Hampshire, refuses to practice what she calls “electronic medicine.” She doesn’t know how to use a computer, and she handwrites her patient records and keeps them in file cabinets.
Why? “Because electronic medicine is for the system, not for the patients,” said the 84-year-old, who is originally from Poland. “The system is destroying human relations between the doctor and the patient.”
Konopka’s refusal to keep electronic records, though, has played a part in a judge denying her request to regain her license to practice, which she voluntarily surrendered in October after allegations of misconduct were brought against her, according to the judge’s ruling.
In his ruling on November 15, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge John Kissinger dismissed a case brought by Konopka to regain her license. Konopka said she was pressured into surrendering her license and was told that if she didn’t, she would have it taken away.
The allegations against Konopka started in October 2014 when a complaint brought to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine accused her of “improper prescribing practices” regarding a child patient, according to the state. After an investigation into the allegation, the board reprimanded Konopka in May.
After Konopka agreed to the reprimand, the board’s medical review subcommittee received additional complaints regarding her, according to Kissinger’s ruling. He said in the ruling that the allegations surround her record keeping, prescribing practices and medical decision making.
Konopka, who denies misconduct, signed a voluntary surrender of license in September, in which she agreed to give up her license effective October 13, allowing her time to “provide scheduled and emergency treatment,” according to the surrender.
In early October, Konopka requested an injunction from the court in hopes of continuing her practice, saying she surrendered her license under duress. Kissinger said in his ruling that Konopka failed to show she was pressured into surrendering the license.
“Her motivation to seek an injunction allowing her to continue to practice comes from a sincere desire to continue to help her patients,” he wrote. “Under these circumstances of this case, however, Dr. Konopka has failed to demonstrate that the extraordinary remedy of an injunction allowing her to continue to practice medicine is appropriate. To hold otherwise would be to ignore the process established by the Legislature to regulate the practice of medicine in this state.”
Not giving up the fight
Konopka filed a motion on November 22 asking Kissinger to reconsider and has filed affidavits from 30 of her patients speaking on her behalf.
“I cannot get too upset,” she said regarding the ruling. “I’m not devastated with that. I think that people are doing certain things against me. They are part of the political system, you know. I’m coping with the system.”
“If you are not with system, the system considers you enemy of system, because you are out of the system. Therefore, as enemy of the system, you have to be destroyed.”
Unless Kissinger reverses his decision, Konopka won’t be able to see the 20 to 25 patients per week who used to come to her practice, where she works alone and charges patients $50. She said her low fees make it hard for her to afford a lawyer.
She was represented by legal counsel at the time she signed the surrender, and Barbara McKelvy, one of Konopka’s patients, said she is working to find a pro bono lawyer for Konopka.
Konopka said patients prefer her practice compared to big hospitals because of the individual attention they receive.
Doctors at hospitals look at computers all the time, Konopka said, and rely on them, instead of their intellect, for diagnoses and guidelines to prescribing medications. She called that system expensive and harmful to patients. The doctors have no contact with the patients, she said.
“They practice electronic medicine, I practice medical art,” she said. “I treat the patient. And I’m not going to compromise the patient’s health or life for the system.”
Jill Beaudry, one of Konopka’s patients who wrote to the court, told CNN Konopka is caring and passionate about her patients and doesn’t care about the money. She added that Konopka is one of the best doctors she’s been to.
“My old doctors, they had their heads shoved into their computers. It was never personal with you. They never even looked at you,” Beaudry said. “With her, she’s 100% focused, and I hate when the doctors are using computers like that, because that’s not medicine.”
As Konopka waits to hear from Kissinger, she said she plans to use a computer for minimal tasks such as staying up-to-date on whether she regains her license to practice. She won’t, however, give in to practicing “electronic medicine.”