Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Short, Pithy, Open Letter to the National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. David Blumenthal

Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 7:17 AM
Cc:; 'Ross Koppel'; 'Justin Starren'
Subject: Re: "As Doctors Shift to Electronic Health Systems, Signs of Harm Emerge"

Dear Dr. Blumenthal,

In the Apr. 20, 2010 article "As Doctors Shift to Electronic Health Systems, Signs of Harm Emerge" at you are quoted as saying that:

"... CPOE alert and decision support features make doctors better ... CPOE is critical to the success of the electronic health records initiative. We need to support it and make sure it happens. How fast and in what form remains to be seen."

I have written that our approaches to IT in medicine lack the scientific approach we use in medicine itself. The foundation of that approach is the use of evidence.

Yet the evidence base is increasingly shedding doubt on statements such as yours, including studies and articles I've been compiling at . This growing corpus of literature suggests these statements may be premature regarding the health IT experiment.

I also share a belief that HIT potentially holds great promise towards improving healthcare quality, safety and costs. However, my beliefs are based on my experiences developing such technology for highly specialized clinical settings, but specifically not based on my experiences with commercial HIT upon which your office is leading a multi-billion dollar spending frenzy. My experiences with that sector have been disappointing as I have repeatedly documented at the Healthcare Renewal blog of the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century this potential has been largely unrealized. Significant factors impeding HIT achievement have been false assumptions concerning the challenges presented by this still-experimental technology, underestimations of the expertise essential to achieve the potential benefits of HIT, and the current orthodoxies around leadership for this grand social reengineering experiment.

The enabler and driver of these factors has been a lack of critical thinking about the technology, about social informatics and its implications, and a marketing and HIMSS driven 'irrational exuberance.'

We really need to return to critical thinking and to a scientific approach to our evaluations and prognostications about HIT.

With that in mind, please show us the hard evidence, now, that would support such statements, or please stop making statements to an unwitting medical audience and public that "CPOE is critical to the success of the electronic health records initiative."

Such statements sound more and more like marketing, not the measured statements on experimental technology I would expect to hear from a Harvard physician-scientist.

-- SS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He does not care. He is serving the flawed devices to the doctors on behalf of the vendors and HIMSS, not unlike kool aid.