Tag: HIT

Whose Data is it Anyway ?

Doug klinger

As we know, the Federal Government is planning to spend $19 billion to help the healthcare system  upgrade its 20th century, non-standard, paper-based and proprietary system-based health records systems to a more standardized, electronic solution which will empower the healthcare system and consumers alike. This may be a side benefit of electing our first Blackberry-toting commander-in-chief. But, it’s not clear that everyone is ready to get behind the President on this one.

The New York Times just published an article entitled “Doctors Raise Doubts on Digital Health Data”.  The New England Journal of Medicine just published two articles outlining the challenges with making the electronic records dream a reality.

In a recent post on this blog entitled, “Better Records on Our Cars Than Ourselves“, we discussed the critical importance of better connecting consumers to the healthcare decision-making and delivery process. Without engaging consumers effectively, it will be difficult to drive meaningful changes in healthcare consumption, healthcare effectiveness and ultimately, healthcare cost.

While the recent flurry of media coverage on the subject of electronic health records points to many of the reasons why the Government’s plan cannot or will not succeed, let’s take a minute to focus on why it should succeed:

1. Health information belongs to the consumers whose health is in question. While the information may be generated by doctors and other members of the delivery system, it is generated on patients and generally paid for by the patients themselves or their insurers (private or government).

2. Patients can and should be able to access and share their health information. Is it really appropriate, as some have argued, for some doctors or other members of the delivery system to decide if we, as patients, are “qualified’ to have access to our own health information ?

3. Getting health records into a more standardized, usable and transferrable format will surely take time and cost a lot of money. One potential benefit of this investment of time and money may be a new partnership between those who deliver healthcare and those who consume heathcare. In an industry which is today characterized by battling between constituents over who gets what care and who pays for that care, a bit of partnership might go a long way. Cal it a pollyanna-ish view, but without a vision to make things better we are may well be destined to mediocrity.

Why not focus on what we can accomplish vs what we cannot ? Why not begin architecting a plan to migrate from reliance on proprietary systems and paper records to an open, electronic solution that brings healthcare information together vs keeping it in protected silos ?

In closing, as the New York Times and New England Journal articles discuss, it seems appropriate to debate how the new electronic information will be used to improve healthcare quality. But, this debate can proceed in parallel with an effort to make the information more readily available in the first place. Without substantive changes to how we collect, store and transfer health information, the healthcare quality debate may stay just that – a debate.

Doug Klinger serves on the board of MedCommons. Before joining MedCommons, spent ten years with CIGNA, where he served as CEO of CIGNA Dental, among other roles. His resume includes a stint with, where he led the company’s North American unit.

BIDMC, Google Health and the data transfer problem

e-Patient Dave on the real world issues of moving data around in health care. The punchline—claims-based data without dates is not very useful, which requires those using the aggregators (Google health et al) to do a whole lot more work.

A really, really important article. Go read.

For whom the HITECH Bill Tolls?

As part of a sweeping effort to address the woes of the current US economy, the government has placed $19 billion on the table for HIT, aimed at containing healthcare costs and creating new jobs. The ultimate instruments for implementing this HITECH bill are America’s physicians and there is much confusion and apprehension in the physician community regarding the net effects of this bill on doctors in particular and healthcare in general. The HIT stimulus effort will not reach its stated objectives without voluntary adoption by our doctors. The government and the HIT community must find a way to draw physicians all over this country into the process of defining and implementing the stimulus package.

In very broad terms, interoperability standards will be defined, Electronic Health Records (EHR) technologies will certify compliance with the standards and physicians will be provided financial incentives to acquire, and meaningfully use, those EHR technologies. The assumptions are that use of these standardized EHRs will reduce costs by reducing medical errors, reducing duplication of tests, improving quality of care and encouraging evidence based clinical decisions. Jobs will be created as the EHRs are deployed across the nation. Experts are already at work “on the Hill”, in the White House, in the boardrooms of HITSP, NIST, CCHIT and other acronym organizations. Technology vendors are feverishly doing their part, from creating websites devoted to the HITECH bill, to making products available at Wal-Mart, to sudden revelations that HIT is really their main business. Everybody is actively involved in making this bill a success.  Well, maybe not everybody.

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Is Healthcare IT Ready for its Big Coming Out Party?

In 2001, when my colleagues and I ranked nearly 100 patient safety practices on the strength of their supporting evidence (for an AHRQ report), healthcare IT didn’t make the top 25. We took a lot of heat for, as one prominent patient safety advocate chided me, “slowing down the momentum.” Some called us Luddites.

Although we hated to be skunks at the IT party, we felt that the facts spoke for themselves. While decent computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems did catch significant numbers of prescribing errors, we found no studies documenting improved hard outcomes (death, morbidity). More concerning, virtually all the research touting the benefits of HIT was conducted on a handful of home-grown systems (most notably, by David Bates’s superb group at Brigham and Women’s Hospital), leaving us concerned about the paucity of evidence that a vendor-developed system airlifted into a hospital would make the world a better place.

Since that time, there have been lots of studies regarding the impact of HIT on safety and, while many of them are positive, many others are not. In fact, beginning about 5 years ago a literature documenting new classesof errors caused by clunky IT systems began to emerge. A study from Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital found a significant increase in mortality after implementation of the Cerner system – a study that was criticized by IT advocates on methodologic grounds, and because “they didn’t implement the system properly.” Studies by Ross Koppel of Penn and Joan Ash of Oregon (such as here and here) chronicled the unintended consequences of IT systems, and urged caution before plunging headfirst into the HIT pool. I raised similar concerns in a 2006 JAMA article, and also recounted the iconic story of Cedars-Sinai’s 2003 IT implementation disaster, where a poorly designed interface, combined with physician resistance to overly intrusive decision support, led the plug to be pulled on the $50 million CPOE system only a few weeks after it was turned on.Continue reading…