Saturday, February 02, 2013

Modern Healthcare: "Health IT Iconoclasts"

The healthcare executive-targeted journal "Modern Healthcare" has named Dr. Ross Koppel, Dr. Deborah Peel, Dr. Larry Weed, and yours truly as "healthcare IT iconoclasts."  Dr. William Bria corroborated the importance of iconoclasty in this domain.

(I would rather see the term "defender of patient's rights" rather then "iconoclast", but I'll settle for the latter if it gets the message out.)

Author Joe Conn writes:

... health IT has long had its critics, even among its pioneers and proponents, as these four prominent health IT iconoclasts will attest. All four consider themselves to be proponents of health IT, but they rail against a tide of health IT boosterism. Their targets: misplaced priorities, failing to promote EHR usability and interoperability, inadequate concern for patient safety and privacy, overemphasizing EHR adoption, understating IT costs and overestimating the return on public IT investments.

He then profiles the four.

On Univ. of Pennsylvania professor and industry punching-bag Dr. Ross Koppel:

Researcher Ross Koppel started an uproar in 2005 when he and a colleague coauthored an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found a first-generation computerized physician order entry system (CPOE) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania was simultaneously creating new errors even as it reduced others.

Koppel’s bombshell—he’s now an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania— brought down the wrath of information technology boosters. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, a health IT trade group, challenged the study’s “methodology and its subsequent outcomes,” and criticized its authors for their “limited view” and not “looking at the big picture.”

... In 2009, he revealed in another JAMA article that health IT vendors’ contracts included “hold harmless” clauses that shielded software developers from legal liability for medical errors their systems caused, even if the developers had been warned about the defects. “That got me major upheaval,” the worst of his career, Koppel recalls.

On privacy advocate, psychiatrist Dr. Deborah Peel (no relation to Emma Peel, although there are similarities in the "has guts" department):

“Let’s face it,” Peel says, “HHS is the agency that eliminated patient control over electronic medical records and has remained hostile to patients’ rights ever since.”

Days before the 2002 revision [HHS redraft of the privacy rule of the HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] went into effect, a group of patients calling themselves Citizens for Health, and more than dozen other plaintiffs, including Peel, sued HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in federal court, alleging the revisions violated patients’ constitutional rights to privacy. They lost at both the trial and appeals-court levels and were denied a hearing on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006.

Peel launched the not-for-profit Patient Privacy Rights Foundation in 2003.

... “Where I’m coming from is, I’ve spent all this time in a profession with people being hurt,” Peel says. “Starting in the 1970s, when I first let out my shingle, people came to me and said, if I paid you in cash, would you keep my records private. Now, we’ve got a situation where you don’t even know where all your records are. We don’t have a chain of custody for our data, or have a data map” to track its location.

 On SOAP-note and Medical Informatics pioneer Dr. Larry Weed:

It’s a rotten system,” declares Dr. Lawrence Weed, who at age 89 is the dean of healthcare information technology iconoclasts.

Weed isn’t disparaging any particular brand of electronic health record system. A dismissive “they’re inadequate” would fairly well cover a Weed-guided tour of today’s EHR systems.

“People don’t get the general picture,” he says. “It’s broken. It’s basically an unsound system.” By that he means the entire healthcare system, but not because its providers are using faulty information technology, but because they’re using IT the wrong way, at least in part.

... In 1984, to help physicians cope [with the knowledge explosion], Weed developed a computer-based, diagnostic support system he called the problem-knowledge coupler. The software company he founded, but is no longer with, PKC, now part of Sharecare, still sells the system. Weed still proselytizes with fervor, calling for the use of computers to store, retrieve and apply medical knowledge.

On me:

The title of Dr. Scot Silverstein’s teaching website at Drexel University, “Contemporary Issues in Medical Informatics: Good Health IT, Bad Health IT, and Common Examples of Healthcare IT Difficulties,” [link] summarizes the veteran physician informaticist’s general outlook on the current state of affairs in health information technology.

It tells you nothing, however, of the passion with which Silverstein speaks or writes about the subject. Also a frequent contributor to the popular reformist “Healthcare Renewal” blog, Silverstein writes with the fire you might expect coming from a self-described computer geek who says he has witnessed a faulty electronic health-record system mysteriously drop a single medication from a patient’s medication list. That missing drug led to a medical error that resulted in a year of suffering and, eventually, that patient’s death, he says.

Silverstein’s passion is even more understandable when he tells you that patient was the doctor’s own mother.

... The health IT world, Silverstein says, parts neatly between “good IT” and “bad IT.” There are those who push hard for the good and complain about the bad, physicians and other clinicians he calls “pragmatic,” and for whom he has sympathy and respect. And then there are those who stay silent, ignoring or acquiescing to the bad, the “hyper-enthusiasts” for whom he holds only unmitigated scorn. “The doctors who don’t speak up about health IT, who work around it, which can cause its own bad results, those are traitors to the oath they took to first do no harm,” he says.

“Physicians are still being accused of being Luddites for not adopting this stuff,” Silverstein says. “Physicians are not Luddites. When it’s good IT, it’s used. I see the tension now between hyper-enthusiasts, who turn a blind eye to the negatives, and pragmatic physicians and nurses who have work to do.”

Finally, Dr. William Bria, longtime president of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) sums up the article this way:

... When it comes to the criticism, “the one thing we can’t do with this information is to ignore it."

“Many, many technologies have come and gone in the history of medicine over the centuries, and it often has been a maverick physician that has called a timeout on ineffective medications or treatments.

“There is little question that, going forward, medicine will be using information tools,” Bria says. “However, I believe it’s becoming also very apparent that we need a modulation and a proper regulation of information technologies used in day-to-day care.”

Amen to that.

The article is available here.

-- SS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congrats to all on this recognition.

Bet they will not issue press releases like they do for hospitals achieving HIMSS 7 wiring or Leapfrog safety leaps.