Friday, May 29, 2009

Canadian Health IT Ripoff ... Is Anyone in the U.S. Paying Attention?

In my Feb. 18, 2009 Wall Street Journal letter to the editor I wrote:

You observe that the true political goal is socialized medicine facilitated by health care information technology. You note that the public is being deceived, as the rules behind this takeover were stealthily inserted in the stimulus bill.

I have a different view on who is deceiving whom. In fact, it is the government that has been deceived by the HIT industry and its pundits. Stated directly, the administration is deluded about the true difficulty of making large-scale health IT work. The beneficiaries will largely be the IT industry and IT management consultants.

For £12.7 billion the U.K., which already has socialized medicine, still does not have a working national HIT system, but instead has a major IT quagmire, some of it caused by U.S. HIT vendors.

HIT (with a few exceptions) is largely a disaster. I'm far more concerned about a mega-expensive IT misadventure than an IT-empowered takeover of medicine.

The stimulus bill, to its credit, recognizes the need for research on improving HIT. However this is a tool to facilitate clinical care, not a cybernetic miracle to revolutionize medicine. The government has bought the IT magic bullet exuberance hook, line and sinker.

I can only hope patients get something worthwhile for the $20 billion.

Regarding my fears about waste and about the identity of the true beneficiaries, this in from the Toronto Sun in Canada:

eHealth making critics sick

Opposition wants 'walking papers' issued to minister, CEO over questionable expenditures

eNough, government critics say.

Opposition parties at Queen's Park are calling for heads to roll after the newest revelations of eye-popping expenditures at eHealth Ontario -- the taxpayer-funded agency established to produce electronic medical records for every citizen in the province.

One consultant with a four-month contract worth $210,600 billed taxpayers for items as small as her $1.57 Tim Hortons tea, her BBQ chicken sub, a $2.98 soup, and her muffins and pops, as well as travel to and from Alberta, and a $2,820-a-month apartment in Toronto.

Even Premier Dalton McGuinty is struggling to understand the spending and has said that he welcomes the results of an ongoing investigation of the agency by the auditor general.

... Freedom of Information documents obtained by the Progressive Conservatives have revealed that eHealth Ontario CEO Sarah Kramer approved nearly $5 million in contracts that weren't put out for a competitive bid.

Sun Media has learned that one consultant charged taxpayers $300 an hour to consult with her husband -- who also had a consulting contract with eHealth Ontario.

Taxpayers paid $7,000 to a consultant to write Kramer's speech to Health Active 2008, and hundreds of dollars more to update her biography.

Even the official spokesman for eHealth was a consultant who charged $1,600 a day to provide communications advice and talk to media, billing $33,200 for 20.75 days work in March alone.

Questions were also raised in the legislature about consultants who billed the Ontario taxpayer to read The New York Times, talk on the subway and watch TV.

On top of that, Kramer received a $114,000 bonus within months of beginning her $380,000-a-year position.

eHealth Ontario and its predecessor agency have spent $146 million on consultants since 2003, despite commitments to reign in billings for outside expertise, and overall agency spending has ballooned to $839 million.

Other provinces are ahead of Ontario in producing records although so far they have spent less money.

... During Question Period, Runciman called on the premier to give Kramer and Caplan their "walking papers."

I stand by my Wall Street Journal letter, to the letter.

The Toronto Sun article concluded with this:

NDP MPP France Gelinas also called for heads to roll, saying eHealth Ontario and its predecessor agency have produced next to nothing for more than three-quarters of a billion dollars.

I reiterate, I hope patients in the U.S. actually get something for the $20+ billion we're about to spend to force health IT down doctors' throats.

-- SS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG, what a shame...and what a surprise!
Just like in England. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?