Monday, September 24, 2012

Good Health IT (GHIT) v. Bad Health IT (BHIT): Paper is Better Than The Latter

An unspoken running assumption of the health IT enthusiast crowd seems to be that any health IT is better than no health IT, because using paper results in mistakes.

I offer a different view.

At the introduction to my Medical Informatics teaching site I've defined good health IT and bad health IT as follows:

Good Health IT ("GHIT") is defined as IT that provides a good user experience, enhances cognitive function, puts essential information as effortlessly as possible into the physician’s hands, keeps eHealth information secure, protects patient privacy and facilitates better practice of medicine and better outcomes. 

Bad Health IT ("BHIT")
is defined as IT that is ill-suited to purpose, hard to use, unreliable, loses data or provides incorrect data, causes cognitive overload, slows rather than facilitates users, lacks appropriate alerts, creates the need for hypervigilance (i.e., towards avoiding IT-related mishaps) that increases stress, is lacking in security, compromises patient privacy or otherwise demonstrates suboptimal design and/or implementation.  . 

There are also good paper systems and bad paper systems.

I opine that the elephant in the living room of health IT discussions is that BHIT is infrequently, if ever, made a major issue in healthcare policy discussions.

I also opine that BHIT is far worse, in terms of diluting and decreasing the quality and privacy of healthcare, than a very good or even average paper-based record-keeping and ordering system.  

This is a simple concept, but I believe it needs to be stated explicitly. 

In today's healthcare world, where health IT is dominated by hyper-enthusiasts of one motive or another, such an axiomatic statement will probably be viewed as controversial if not heretical. 

This blog has numerous postings about health IT debacles, e.g., query links here and here, that could not occur with paper systems.  The defects of just one company's products, the only one that publicly reports them to FDA (link) are frightening in terms of potential consequences.

GHIT needs to be promoted and BHIT needs to be eliminated.  That implies a major transformation of the health IT industry and its oversight.

-- SS

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