Monday, November 04, 2013

Australian Medical Association on EHR rollout: 'Hard to use, increases workload, hard to find data, we just don't seem to have got the outcome we were looking for.'

Some familiar themes from the Australian Medical Association on their attempt at a National Programme for Health IT:

Electronic health records rollout has not met expectations, Australian Medical Association says
Updated Mon 4 Nov 2013, 8:59am AEDT

The Australian Medical Association says the rollout of electronic health records has not met expectations.

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton has announced an independent review of the project to see how it can be improved.

AMA national president Dr Steve Hambleton, one of the panel members for the review, says e-health records need to be made easier for doctors to use.

Ease of use seems a constant, unremitting problem.  An independent review (if truly independent) is a wise move - and sorely needed in this country, where the narrative is controlled by the industry and its government sponsors/cheerleaders.

A bit of wisdom comes to mind, from (of all people) weapons inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov:  "All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed."

(Satirically speaking, would it be helpful  if health IT designers, when suffering from, say, acute renal colic, or Bornholm disease a.k.a. devil's grip,, were made to wait for treatment until the doctors and nurses navigated every single tab, menu, pulldown, selection list, etc. to enter all of their data? Perhaps that would be an educational experience for them ... )

"It's certainly timely to actually have a look at the e-health records and just see where it is, where it's going, whether it's actually achieved what it set out to do and what we need to do to actually make it work," he said. 

I think the question of  "whether it's actually achieved what it set out to do" was meant as rhetorical.

"The profession's always supported this, we just don't seem to have got the outcome we were looking for."

That's because the profession - both in Australia and the U.S. - has abdicated leadership of healthcare informatics efforts, instead delegating it to those without domain expertise, and/or the incompetent.

This is a sure path to the results we now are getting both here and Down Under.

From a recent essay at the "Sultan Knish" Blog by writer Daniel Greenfield ( on competence and the Obamacare insurance website debacle:

... Modernity has to be built. It has to be constructed brick by bit by rivet by cable by people who know what they are doing. Modernity without competence is as worthless as the ObamaCare website which looked pretty enough to give the illusion of technocratic modernity, but didn't actually work.

Competence is the real modernity and it has very little to do with the empty trappings of design that surround it. In some ways the America of a few generations ago was a far more modern place because it was a more competent place. For all our nice toys, we look like primitive savages compared to men who could build skyscrapers and fleets within a year... and build them well.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this problem, since in this industry, failure is an option, and a profitable one at that.

Mr Dutton says a lot of money has been spent on the project, but that the take up rate has been low.

In the U.S., the takeup rate has been artificially accelerated by economic incentives and penalties (via the HITECH Act of 2009).  Australia seems to lack such a plan at present.

Concerns were raised in July that the new system, which was trialled in parts of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, makes it difficult for doctors to access updated information

I opine that it takes remarkable incompetence to design software using computers that can store, retrieve and process data at speeds unimaginable just a few years ago, that actually make it difficult for users to access current information.

Doctors also complained that the e-health program, designed to link a patient's medical records between doctors, hospitals and other providers, was increasing their workload.

From the linked article "E-Health Flaws Adding to GP Stress",

Many Newcastle GPs say the system is adding to stress levels and making their workloads excessive. They are complaining the E-health program unworkable in its present form and is increasing their workload by up to two hours a day.

For little benefit, I add.

... Dr Hambleton says the initial version of the system has several strong aspects and is safe and secure, but that key changes will benefit doctors.

"Clinical utility means that it decreases the search time and that we've got accurate information there. Those are the things that'll make clinicians want to use it and be able to use it."

Translation: major changes might actually make the systems useful, instead of a time-sapping annoyance (at best), and a danger (at worst).

-- SS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But Congresswoman Blackburn (Tn) introduced a bill H.R. 3303 keeping the FDA from regulating these dangerous devices.