Thursday, February 19, 2009

Will health IT be the Obama version of the Iraq War?

In a provocative piece that integrates various HIT issues well, the post "Will health IT be Obama version of the Iraq War" by ZDNet Healthcare writer Dana Blankenhorn appeared today here.

Mr. Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

His article, carrying a self-admittedly controversial title (well, I do that, too) was in my opinion extremely well done.

He cites my Drexel website on HIT difficulties, my pre-inauguration Open Letter to President Elect Obama, my WSJ letter yesterday, and a number of my other HC Renewal posts as well.

Mr. Blankenhorn observes:

Amid all the excitement over health IT’s place in the Obama Administration stimulus package, Scot Silverstein is the skunk at the picnic, the quiet voice in the corner saying “it’ll never work.” [I'd actually have preferred the term 'gadfly'! - ed.]

Dr. Silverstein is no crank, nor Luddite, nor troll. He is in fact a specialist in medical informatics, on the faculty at Drexel University in Philadelphia (go Dragons), and a regular contributor to the Health Care Renewal blog. (See our blogroll.)

Mr. Blankenhorn also notes:

... There is irony here, of which he seems well aware. The nation’s political divide may be between ideologues and technocrats, yet it’s possible that in health IT we’ve just put $20 billion into an industry’s ideology.

He concludes with these thoughts:

If Silverstein is right health IT may be Obama’s Iraq War. If he is wrong industry needs to prove him wrong, and not just try to discredit him.

A lot will be riding on whoever the Administration picks to be its “health IT czar.” Will it come from the industry, from the medical-industrial complex, or will it be someone who knows what they are doing?

I left this comment:

Thanks for quoting me.

I am in fact challenging the industry to prove me wrong. Through results and clinician satisfaction, not spin, ad hominem, and corporate mumbo jumbo.

HIT is capable of the benefits claimed for it, but only if done well. Behind those two 4 letter words, however, is a level of complexity that if ignored will result in a lot more IT in landfills. And some of its unfortunate subjects in cemeteries.

I would like to be proven "wrong", or more correctly, proven right, resulting in industry reforms that lead to HIT "done right."

Mr. Blankenhorn "gets it" on the controversies surrounding HIT. He appears a critically-thinking individual who understands the need to conduct extensive background research before putting ink to paper (or electrons to screen). He mentioned to me after my feedback that he'd initially thought his article would reflect negatively on my work, but after reading some of my material he did a 180 degree turn.

We need more journalists such as Mr. Blankenhorn in all our media, who do not let initial and personal opinions get in the way of proper background reading, logical thought and due diligence.

The article also prompted many well thought out comments from readers, but some typical misinformed and hysterical ones as well, some from the IT community. Those reader comments can be seen here.

-- SS


Anonymous said...

The industry, as currently configured, is incapable of proving you wrong. The sad part is that the HIT industry mantra of profits is tinctured with just the right amount of (flawed) safety propaganda to seduce the medically uninformed politicians to make decisions adverse to patient safety. These HIT products, especially CPOE "typewriters" are medical devices, and were slipped into the market place without safety and efficacy data. In essence, the HIT industry is experimenting with care delivery and using patients to improve the software running these devices for future iterations. If you are a physician caring for a patient who has suffered from HIT done wrong, please report it to the FDA at its user friendly medwatch on the home page.

InformaticsMD said...

If you are a physician caring for a patient who has suffered from HIT done wrong, please report it to the FDA at its user friendly medwatch on the home page.

I agree with this commenter's suggestion, as a start. I'd also add that such reports are welcome to me personally. My email address can be obtained in the "contributors" panel link in the upper right hand corner of this blog.

-- SS