As a journalist who for the last decade has covered the use of information technology in health care, I’m rather disgusted at some of my brethren in the mass media. I’m none too happy with the medical establishment, either. Both seem hopelessly stuck in the past, refusing to look beyond the status quo. And the public suffers because of it.
This fall, for example, the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets covered a Yale University study that sought to determine whether or not “telemonitoring” heart failure patients recently discharged from the hospital would reduce heart attacks or readmission. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a November meeting of the American Heath Association, concluded that that telemonitoring, which involved patients calling in their weight measurements and health symptoms after being discharged, made virtually no difference in the outcome. The Times called the trial “a good, commonsense idea that simply didn’t work out.”
Was it, really?
Keeping in touch with one’s physician on a frequent basis after being hospitalized for heart failure is a fine idea, as is monitoring one’s weight. But, as happened in the Yale study, patients generally don’t stick with the program. One in seven study participants never called their doctors, while just 55 percent of patients were making at least three calls per week six months after discharge.Continue reading…
What can be said about “meaningful use” of electronic health records that hasn’t already been said? Actually, plenty, if the events leading up to Monday morning’s official opening of HIMSS11 are any indication.
Last week, HIMSS honcho Steve Lieber told me in an interview at his Chicago office that most of the confusion about Stage 1 meaningful use has subsided, but that there still was plenty of “uncertainty” about the future. As in, uncertainty about the transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of the federal EHR incentive program and uncertainty about leadership, as national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal prepares to return to Harvard in April. (Yes, it is April. Blumenthal apparently spilled the beans to former Sen. Dave Durenberger a few weeks ago.)
“Everybody’s real clear on Stage 1,” Lieber said. The uncertainty is about future stages of meaningful use, particularly in the transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2. The fact that there will be a new national coordinator is another source of uncertainty, but it just means that there could be further refinements to existing regulations.
Vendors seem anxious to see the Stage 2 regulations so they can begin modifying and recertifying their products to help customers meet the next round of requirements. (Yes, everything will have to be recertified to meet Stage 2 criteria.)
The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) late last week formally asked for more time to transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2 because it’s unclear if many physicians and hospitals are even ready for the first stage. “CHIME believes that it would not be prudent to move to Stage 2 until about 30 percent of (eligible hospitals and eligible providers) have been able to demonstrate EHR MU under Stage 1,” says CHIME’s comment letter. “We believe this approach would strike a reasonable balance between the desire to push EHR adoption and MU as quickly as possible, and the recognition that unreasonable expectations could end up discouraging EHR adoption if providers conclude that it will be essentially impossible for them to qualify for incentives.”Continue reading…