The Dark Age of Meaningful Use

A lesson from the future:

We look back at the years between 2010 and 2016  (The lifespan of Meaningful Use) as a dark age in healthcare software.

It was an era where software companies bound by government mandate to churn out horrible software tried to pretend their products increased productivity. “Eligible” providers were brow-beaten to click buttons and fill forms, print things and perform medical decision making without being paid.

Some software companies were successful, in a financial sense, as their armies of sales experts and market segmenters conquered their unassuming customers, brandishing the sabre of “ONC-ACB certified”. Those companies unwittingly managed to stamp out the potential of small physician offices, increasing consolidation to hospitals – and healthcare costs. Eventually, the ONC crest once emblazoned proudly on their chests, became a warning: “This software was designed for Meaningful Use, not Actual Use”.

Linguistically, the term “Meaningful Use” became entwined with “Electronic Health Record”. People forgot that medical software could improve patient care and not tout it’s Meaningful Use certification. An effort was made to ridicule those who believed that government regulations were legitimately harmful to the healthcare industry. The sky was lassoed and we were pulling it down.

A healthcare IT Renaissance:

The tides did turn, however. Visionaries and industry leaders came to realize how harmful Meaningful Use was to innovation.  Lawmakers were educated on how destructive constantly changing software and workflow requirements are to software development and medical workflow management.

The Meaningful Use tax on software companies and medical offices was lifted, allowing thousands of previously suppressed software providers to compete and distinguish themselves in a real market.  Some features that were expected materialized: Usability, Interoperability, support services and cost decreases. Even previously unimagined features appeared.

Those leaders went on to invent a SomethingNew(TM). Like the word processor, the spreadsheet or the iPad, this SomethingNew was created that physicians didn’t even know they needed. A new perspective on medical software was born. Indeed, the term “EHR” was retired as clinicians, politicians and developers realized how much more potential there is beyond “record keeping”.

And all that was required for this medical software revolution was a rollback of a law. No major changes, no reform. Just a realization that a heavy hand will not allow this industry to thrive.

Now, we have our many NewThings(TM). We have NewCardiologyThings, and NewOncologyThings, lots of NewThings. Hospital-employed docs have been shown that it is financially possible to go back to private practice. There is renewed respect for the difficult decisions we entrust our physicians and nurses to make. Medicine became distributed, diverse, healthier.

Now that we have gotten rid of Meaningful Use, it is a good time to be a doctor.  Let’s thank those that came before us for rolling back Meaningful Use. Now.

Nick Orlowski is the founder of Ankhos Software

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