Aside from the intoxicant qualities of crisp bank notes, I am beginning to suspect that computers exert a narcotic effect, like Kool Aid laced with morphine or alcohol, on many in the population.
Many people who should know better of the challenges, dangers and myths surrounding these tools are drawn in to comparisons and analogies that I would charitably call magical thinking and puerile - and absurdist and stupid when not so charitable.
This article shows the muddled thinking behind the health IT mania. My observation: when you see the word "revolutionary" in the same paragraph as health IT you're dealing with hysterics.
The "patient from hell" asks:
Why is the road to electronic healthcare so much more rocky than computerising other bits of the economy? Other professions, including bankers, accountants and lawyers, have made the jump, some 30 years after the advent of personal computers. Even musicians, poets, journalists, artists, philosophers and MPs have got up to speed.
Yes, and you can train a dog to fetch a stick, therefore you can train a potato to dance.
Why is the road to HIT more rocky than the road to computer poetry or art?
Perhaps because the endeavors of clinicians are not like those of a musician or poet or lawyer or banker, but just a bit more informationally, operationally, cognitively, scientifically, and socially complex?
I was amazed at the time by the irresponsibility, primarily of the consultants [i.e., physicians - ed.], who were effectively opting out of the planning process. They showed no interest in playing a part in designing a new way of working – for themselves, for nurses and all others involved in the revolutionary changes which digitalisation would bring to their working practices.
In fact, they were showing responsibility - to patients - in not being so eager to "change to new ways of working" according to the diktats of computer geeks, government and other bureaucrats and myriad non-clinicians running around like drunks, hysterically screaming "revolution!"
I fear that communication between clinician and IT has now got so contaminated that crazy solutions will come out of the deliberations of the coalition government on the future of IT in the health service. All I ask is that clinicians and IT people talk to each other. Is that so hard?
If you have the right tools on your kitchen table, shouldn't it be easy to generate nuclear fission at home?
Due to factors such as the asymmetry in responsibilities, obligations and liabilities between the two fields, of differences in knowledge and expertise, and in mindset and qualifications to attain privileges to intervene in people's lives (who qualifies IT personnel to be involved in clinical affairs?), yes, idealistic "let's all play nice in the sandbox together" dreams are "so hard."
Unfortunately, these types of comparisons and sentiments are extremely common in the Healthcare-IT-industrial complex.
The reality is:
The NPfIT failed because its purveyors and promoters hadn't a clue about the complexities and wicked problems involved in such an endeavor, problems known and described in the Medical Informatics and Social Informatics literature, among others, for decades.
It also failed because of collective ignorance of these domains among its leaders, and among those who chose the leaders. For instance, as I wrote here:
The Department of Health has announced the two long-awaited senior management appointments for the National Programme for IT ... The Department announced in February that it was recruiting the two positions as part of a revised governance structure for handling informatics in the Department of Health.
Christine Connelly will be the first Chief Information Officer for Health and will focus on developing and delivering the Department's overall information strategy and integrating leadership across the NHS and associated bodies including NHS Connecting for Health and the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care.Christine Connelly was previously Chief Information Officer at Cadbury Schweppes with direct control of all IT operations and projects. She also spent over 20 years at BP where her roles included Chief of Staff for Gas, Power and Renewables, and Head of IT for both the upstream and downstream business.
Martin Bellamy will be the Director of Programme and System Delivery. He will lead NHS Connecting for Health and focus on enhancing partnerships with and within the NHS. Martin Bellamy has worked for the Department for Work and Pensions since 2003. His main role has been as CIO of the Pension Service.
Excuse me. Cadbury Schweppes (candy and drink?) The Pension Service? As national leaders for healthcare IT?
Instead of sobriety, attitudes about health IT seem to universally be "sure, the experts think you shouldn’t ride a bicycle into the eye of a hurricane, but we have our own theories." (See here and here.)
The domain of health IT needs a very stiff period of detox and rock-solid sobriety before it can achieve the (non-revolutionary) benefits of which it is capable.