Sunday, May 05, 2013

AMA says EHRs create 'appalling Catch-22' for docs - And just how many experts does it take to screw in a light bulb, anyway?

(NOTE:  this post, being about minor matters like death and financial mayhem, is particularly and unusually [even for me] biting and lacking in euphemisms and political correctness.  If you are easily offended and want the latter, and/or believe we all need to be 'nice' about banal issues like patient injury and death, fraud, and other minor matters, click here: and skip the post below.)

You were warned.


At some point, so-called EHR "experts" and pundits need to stop being accommodated for their having ignored years of warnings, complaints, "anecdotes" -a particularly egregious term that comes from those who don't understand risk management, especially academics of the echo chamber-egghead subspecies (link) - and other signs that health IT is not a beneficent, omniscient gift from the Lords of Kobol. (The latter is a pun on the business-IT programming language Cobol, of course.)

Instead, they simply need to be ridiculed for being stupid.

I will do so:  folks, you have been, and remain, stupid:

The Bovine Stare of Incomprehension (click to enlarge)

The Bovine Stare of Incomprehension describes the reactions I've gotten over the years to many warnings about health IT.  It was like talking to a cow.

So now there's this:

AMA says EHRs create 'appalling Catch-22' for docs
May 03, 2013 | Tom Sullivan, Editor

As the healthcare industry moves to EHRs, the medical record has essentially been reduced to a tool for billing, compliance, and litigation that also has a sustained negative impact on doctors' productivity, according to Steven J. Stack, MD, chair of the American Medical Association’s board of trustees.

Gee, they're only realizing and complaining about that - now?  In 2013?

“Documenting a full clinical encounter in an EHR is pure torment,” Stack said during the CMS Listening Session: Billing and Coding with Electronic Health Records on Friday.

(What, the "pure torment" in such a mission-critical function only started with the most recent patches installed last month on the nation's EHRs?  EHRs were just dandy until then?)

It's nice to know in May 2013 that “documenting a full clinical encounter [essential to avoid injurious and even lethal mistakes, I anecdotally note - ed.] in an EHR is "pure torment”, several years into an accelerated "National Program for HIT in the HHS" costing hundreds of billions of dollars.

I guess sites like this blog, this site extant since 1998, and other materials written over the years by backwards stubborn health IT iconoclast fear-mongering Luddites were beyond the comprehension level of - those now proffering the exact same pronouncements.

EHRs are also driving the industry toward charts that look remarkably similar because they’re based on templates created by the technology vendors — that includes often using the same words. And that threatens to make doctors appear to be committing fraud by the practice of record cloning, or cutting and pasting from one record to another, when they are not, in fact, acting fraudulently

I guess putting patients in mortal danger from note cloning (and to those too stupid to understand why that is, get off your rear end and look it up, I'm not going to spoon-feed you) is a step better than acting fraudulently...

Alongside the federal mandate to implement an EHR under threat of a monetary fine, that creates what Stack called “an appalling Catch-22 for physicians.”

Put another way: The government mandates that doctors use an EHR, the EHR vendors’ templates can sometimes create an appearance of fraud and that, in turn, opens the door for payers to decline reimbursement or, even worse, the government to prosecute doctors for the crime.

I guess actual fraud is just anecdotal.

As dire as that sounds, it's an exception that belies the unproven perception that EHRs perpetuate fraud. “Upcoding does not necessarily equate to fraud and abuse,” said Sue Bowman, AHIMA’s senior director of coding and compliance at the same event. “This is an area where more study is needed. We really need to know the causes. Further research is needed on the fraud risk of using EHRs.”

Sure, let's study while rolling this stuff out as frantically as we can.  We'll fix it later -- and Jesus, I guess, will heal and reanimate any patients actually harmed by the technology (link to ECRI Institute Deep Dive Study: 36 hospitals!  Nine weeks!  171 health information technology-related problems voluntarily reported!  Eight injuries!  Three possible deaths!  All mere "anecdotes", of course).

Indeed, Jacob Reider, MD, CMO of ONC, explained that the government and industry do not have good data right now proving whether or not EHRs trigger fraud and abuse.

Per the IOM, the same industry does not have good data on harms levels.  (The previous link to a recent small ECRI "Deep Dive" study's probably the most robust we've got on that score, and the figures are not encouraging).

So - let's review -
  • poor data on harms, 
  • poor data on benefits, 
  • poor data on fraud and abuse.

 The logical, ethical course of action thus is:


See how simple logic, ethics and clear thinking can be?

“There is concern that some doctors are using the EHR to obtain payments to which they are not entitled,” said Mickey McGlynn of Siemens Medical Solutions and HIMSS EHR Association. “Any fraud is an important issue and we, as the vendor community, take that very seriously.”

Only after independent whistleblower investigations by Fred Schulte of the Center for Public Integrity ("Cracking the Codes"), and by New York Times reporters Reed Abelson and Julie Creswell, that is...

AMA’s Stack offered a triptych of suggestions to CMS and ONC: address EHR usability concerns, provide guidance on EHR use for coding and billing, and make meaningful use stage 2 more flexible for providers.

“My purpose is not to denigrate EHRs,” Stack said, explaining that he believes CMS and ONC are genuinely trying to better the current situation.

Nice to have Caspar Milquetoast  on the side of EHR criticism.

Knock knock, anyone home, McFly?

Knock knock, anyone home, McFly?

Today's EHR systems, for the aforementioned reasons above and more, deserve denigration for patients' sake.

There are efforts underway, within the government and industry, to more comprehensively understand the unintended consequences of EHR implementation.

But let's keep rollin' em out, anyway.  Wheeee!  What fun!

Class action attorneys, are you listening?

-- SS


Anonymous said...

It has been obvious for years that the so called thought leaders in HIT have their heads up their rear ends so far that they are seeing daylight.

Afraid said...

Poor data on harms, poor data on benefits, poor data on fraud and abuse.

And these are the same people hoping to keep track of medical data?

Anonymous said...

Our group has concerns that given the changes and requirements of EHR coupled with never-ending demands of seeing even more patients daily by our “overseers”, then when will our first malpractice claim be served as a result of our evolving “operator fatigue”?