Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Software Engineer's Eloquence on Health IT

Here is an eloquent piece from the same software engineer/patient whose travails were covered at "A Most Interesting Patient Account of Misery by EHR."

If we had more people of this mindset in healthcare IT, we'd be much further along the diffusion curve and have far better, safer HIT:

From Unfortunate Issues for a National Health IT Network:

It would be wonderful if HIT could deliver President Obama's, or former PM Tony Blair's, vision. It would also be wonderful if HIT was about "saving lives". Tragically, the opposite is too often true. Poorly implemented HIT can do great harm ...

As IT professionals, we must resist the allure of wealth, prestige, and "solving big problems" when the cost of our exuberance is measurable in human lives. We must in the case of HIT proceed as trusted engineers, as builders of the great bridges over which our loved ones drive. We must rationally and soberly asses the HIT challenges we face before we start coding. If we are not up to this challenge, then we have a professional obligation to walk away from the fun and the money. While a national HIT network may someday deliver "life-saving" technology, achieving that vision will be a long, arduous, and expensive journey that requires of IT professionals a renewed emphasis on user interface design and data engineering fundamentals.

Addendum- A reader at the AMIA clinical information systems workgroup points out that these words are truly worthy of the spirit of's Engineer’s Code:

“Ethical tensions can best be addressed by thoughtful consideration of fundamental principles, rather than blind reliance on detailed regulations. These Principles should influence software engineers to consider broadly who is affected by their work; to examine if they and their colleagues are treating other human beings with due respect; to consider how the public, if reasonably well informed, would view their decisions; to analyze how the least empowered will be affected by their decisions; and to consider whether their acts would be judged worthy of the ideal professional working as a software engineer. In all these judgments concern for the health, safety and welfare of the public is primary; that is, the "Public Interest" is central to this Code.”

Now, if only such words could form the standard of practice, not the exception.

-- SS

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