My early medical mentor, Dr. Victor P. Satinsky, had disdain for those whom he called "Masters of the Obvious", who proffered profound words of wisdom that were in fact common-sensical or well-accepted, as if they'd invented those words personally.
I think it's fair to say that after countless publications dating back decades, pointing out the essential role of clinical leadership in the development of clinical tools such as healthcare information technology systems, that such involvement is now a standard of care that reasonable hospital leadership would mandate when spending tens of millions of dollars on potentially injurious or lethal systems.
Yet the physician revolt at Athens Regional Medical Center appears to be a result of its most senior leadership not keeping IT leadership on an appropriately short leash (a phenomenon that falls under the topical heading of "severe mismanagement"):
Lack of input, training created problems with Athens Regional electronic records system
By Kelsey Cochran
Updated Sunday, June 15, 2014
More input in the way Athens Regional Health Systems’ electronic health records system was implemented should have come from the clinicians who use it every day, and fewer decisions should have been made by the hospital’s information technology department, a top hospital administrator and two vice presidents of system vendor Cerner Corp. said this week, in the wake of criticism of the system by a number of physicians.
... Although some daily users of the system were involved in the planning and design process from the beginning, Cerner Vice President Michael Robin, who has worked closely with ARMC since the deal was first made, said his team noticed midway through its implementation that the hospital system’s IT team was leading the project, which is "atypical" of Cerner clients like ARMC, he said.
First, I don't think that IT team control of health IT projects is all that unusual. Clinicians, even medical informaticists with cross-disciplinary expertise, rarely are more than "internal consultants" who may be ignored, as opposed to true leaders with executive presence and authority (e.g., control of budgets, grants of authority, and IT staff performance evaluation, hire and fire authority).
Second, where was the Board of Directors? They were ultimately responsible for allowing the IT leadership in at a level beyond their collective heads.
Third, it's just a bit odd that the leader of the (failed) $20 billion National Programme for IT in the NHS, Richard Granger, said almost exactly the same thing about listening to end-users ca. 2007 (see http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2007/07/clinical-it-mayhem-is-good-for-it.html). I as well as numerous other authors had similar observations, in some cases dating to the 1960's. For example, see my essays, some dating to the late 1990s at http://cci.drexel.edu/faculty/ssilverstein/cases/?loc=cases, and Dr. Donald Lindberg's quotes from 1969 at the page below from Morris Collen's book "A History of Medical Informatics in the United States 1950-1990."
|EHR pioneer Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/od/roster/lindberg.html), 1969: "Computer engineering experts per se have virtually no idea of the real problems of medical or even of hospital practice, and furthermore have consistently underestimated the complexity of the problems ... in no cases can these jobs be done, simply because they have not been defined with a physician as the continuing major contributor and user of the information." (Click to enlarge)|
The essential nature of clinicians actually having input (and at a leadership level) into the design and implementation of clinical tools such as health IT is patently obvious. Only in the perverse control-mentality of business information technology (a.k.a. MIS or management information systems, see http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2008/05/seedie-society-for-exorbitantly.html for the possible pre-electronic computer, tabulator-based roots of that culture) could such a precept even be questioned, let alone ignored.
... Moore, who took over as administrative lead on the electronic health record system after Thaw resigned, said some of the issues outlined in the physicians’ letter were real, and some were “theoretical.”
Translation: some of the complaints were accidents waiting to happen.
..."To the best of our knowledge, there was not patient harm or patient death.”
In other words, this is yet another story where the common, feel-good and ignorant refrain "but patient care has not been compromised" has reared its ugly head. (I've made this type of claim a topical header at this blog. See query link http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/search/label/Patient%20care%20has%20not%20been%20compromised for others.)
Assuming that's true - note that the impact of bad health IT can be delayed due to delayed effects of bad or missing information - this statement is, let me be impolite, vacuous on its face.
It seems some simple facts apparently need to be explained to these geniuses. I'll put it in caps just to make sure they understand some basic issues:
- A HOSPITAL IS NOT A PLACE FOR RISKY INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY EXPERIMENTATION. UNNECESSARY RISK IN HEALTHCARE IS A VERY, VERY BAD THING.
- THE GOAL OF HOSPITALS IS NOT TO SUBJECT PATIENTS TO RISK VIA MISMANAGEMENT OF HEALTHCARE IT, AND THEN PROCLAIM "NOBODY WAS INJURED OR KILLED" AFTER THE PERPETRATORS OF THE MISMANAGEMENT ARE UPROOTED.
- CLINICIANS DO NOT TOIL IN HOSPITALS TAKING CARE OF SICK PATIENTS SO THAT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY PERSONNEL CAN HAVE COMFY JOBS AND COOL COMPUTERS.
One wonders if these points might be above the intellectual pay grade of those running hospitals - including boards - in 2014.
If nobody was injured or killed, it was due to happenstance, not due to appropriate due diligence and adherence to the standards of care essential in this healthcare sector - that is, healthcare information technology.
Depending on happenstance is not a good healthcare management strategy.