Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Death of EHR "Meaningul Use" imminent. (Hopefully the death of the 'National Programme for Health IT in the HHS' is imminent, too.)

I've written a number of posts on the Orwellian-named "Meaningful Use" experiment with electronic health records systems, imposed upon United States physicians by the Department of Health and Human Services through its Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

See these posts and others retrieved by query link

Meaningful Use Final Rule: Have the Administration and ONC Put the Cart Before the Horse on Health IT?

Meaningfully Experimental Protocols and Interfaces to Nowhere? Nagging Questions On Healthcare IT Remain

Science or Politics? The New England Journal and "The 'Meaningful Use' Regulation for Electronic Health Records"

"Meaningful Use" not so meaningul: Multiple medical specialty societies now go on record about hazards of EHR misdirection, mismanagement and sloppy hospital computing

EHRs and "Meaningful Use": Begging the Question in the New England Journal of Medicine

The Scientific Justification for Meaningul Use, Stage 2: The NWB Methodology

Meaningful Use and the Devil in the Details: A Reader's View

In these posts and others I expressed significant skepticism about the 'Meaningful Use' scheme.

But what did I know?  Our betters in government and academia knew far better how to seriously annoy physicians, make more burdensome (and hence more dangerous) the already onerous task of EHR use, and waste the tax money we hard-working Americans pay to an increasingly bloated bureaucracy that acts as if money grows on trees (the U.S. debt has doubled in recent years to almost $19 billion, see

From the horse's mouth (or perhaps the animal's other end) at

Meaningful Use Defined

Meaningful use is using certified electronic health record (EHR) technology to:
  • Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities
  • Engage patients and family
  • Improve care coordination, and population and public health
  • Maintain privacy and security of patient health information

I note that none of this was backed by science at the time of its formulation.

The end result of the MU experiment is this:

CMS’s Slavitt: End of meaningful use imminent in 2016
Internal Medicine News
January 12, 2016

Meaningful use is on its way out.

Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told investors attending the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that CMS is pulling back from the health care IT incentive program in the coming months.

“The meaningful use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better,” Mr. Slavitt said. Without providing full details, he said that March 25 would be an important date as concerns the rollout of the new health IT initiatives.

The waste of resources and time, and the alienation of physicians by this grand(-ly foolish) experiment is significant:

“We have to get the hearts and minds of physicians back. I think we’ve lost them,” Mr. Slavitt said.

No foolin'.  Ya think?

This was predictable by anyone with half a brain about healthcare information technology reality.  (It's a real loss that hyper-enthusiast health IT geniuses responsible can't be fired and banned from the domain of healthcare - for life.)

Perhaps the officials at HHS got their first clue about clinician unhappiness via a long January 2015 letter from about 40 medical societies, including the AMA, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, and numerous others that they did not exactly love these systems and the MU experiment.  See my January 28, 2015 post "Meaningful Use not so meaningful: Multiple medical specialty societies now go on record about hazards of EHR misdirection, mismanagement and sloppy hospital computing" at and the letter itself at

He noted that, when the meaningful use incentive program began, few physicians and practices used electronic health records and concerns were that many would not willingly embrace information technology. Now that “virtually everywhere care is delivered has a computer,” it’s time to make health care technology serve beneficiaries and the physicians who serve them, Mr. Slavitt said.

The revealing nature of this candid statement is breathtaking.  He's admitting that 1) many physicians, rightfully reluctant to not "willingly embrace" IT, had the technology imposed upon them by government (due to its "concerns") via penalties for non-adopters and 2) with the systems in the physicians' faces at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars that could have been better spent on healthcare itself (e.g., for those subject to 'disparities", i.e., the poor), now it's time to make the systems serve patients and physicians.


The cost, however, was too high, Mr. Slavitt said. “As any physician will tell you, physician burden and frustration levels are real. Programs that are designed to improve often distract. Done poorly, measures are divorced from how physicians practice and add to the cynicism that the people who build these programs just don’t get it.”

The 'cynicism' (def: inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; skepticism) that the builders of these programs don't "get it?"  It's not cynicism.  It's a rational conclusion arrived at via empirical observation.

I also recall in the not-so-distant past that physician complaints were dismissed as the complaints of "Luddites."  I've heard this at Informatics meetings, at medical meetings, at commercial health IT meetings (e.g., Microsoft's Health Users Group, and at HIMSS), at government meetings (e.g., GS1 healthcare), and others.

It's rewarding to finally have government officials admit those charges were, to be blunt about it, lies or delusions.

Soon, CMS will no longer reward health care providers for using technology, but will instead focus on patient outcomes through the merit-based incentive pay systems created by last year’s Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) legislation. 

Perhaps that's a move in the right direction; time will tell.  However, I'm sure physicians have GREAT confidence in how well that will work out, yet another government experimental project.

In addition to asking physicians to work with health care IT innovators to create systems that work best according to their practice’s respective needs, CMS is calling on the private sector to create apps and analytic tools that will keep data secure while fostering true and widespread interoperability.

This is in the realm of delusion.  Physicians "asked" to "work with" (for free?) the same "innovators" (i.e, health IT companies) whose "innovation" led to the massive disaffection for today's health IT, and the burdens that technology has placed on the medical profession, nurses and other clinicians as well?   Further, it's actually believed that the companies will listen, when they've failed to do so for several decades running?  My head spins.

Anyone seeking to block data transfer will find CMS is not their friend. Mr. Slavitt said. “We’re deadly serious about interoperability. Technology companies that look for ways to practice data blocking in opposition to new regulations will find that it will not be tolerated.”

And who, exactly, is going to enforce that edict on proprietary systems, which health IT companies view (correctly, from the business perspective) as giving them a competitive edge?  I'm sure the health IT companies, who now hold medicine captive, are shaking in their boots.

Dr. James L. Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association, echoed Mr. Slavitt’s comments on the current, negative impact of EHRs on physicians’ practices. He noted that many physicians are spending at least 2 hours each workday using their EHR and may click up to 4,000 times per 8-hour shift.

I should open a clinic for health IT-caused carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive motion injuries.  Oh wait!  There's no ICD-10 code for that to bill (see

Dr. Madara outlined three AMA goals to help restore the physician-patient relationship. The first is to restructure the medical school curriculum, which he said essentially is the same as it has been for 100 years. New generations of physicians should be taught how to deliver collaborative care that includes telemedicine, more ambulatory care, and home care. Community-based partnerships, he said, would become key to treating chronic diseases like diabetes and would have to be factored into reimbursement models. The AMA also seeks to improve health outcomes and ensure thriving physician practices.

Central to the AMA’s plan for the future: Helping physicians restructure practice via technology. He announced that the AMA is a founding partner in the Silicon Valley (Calif.) based Health2047, a company focused on supporting health IT and other entrepreneurs in their efforts to provide physicians with digital tools that improve patient outcomes, among other innovations.

As to "helping physicians restructure practice via [information] technology", this seems an example of what I termed "Heath IT hyper-enthusiasm" writ large.  See My March 11, 2012 post "Doctors and EHRs: Reframing the 'Modernists v. Luddites' Canard to The Accurate 'Ardent Technophiles vs. Pragmatists' Reality" at

What is needed, as I have repeatedly written, is not to have physicians "restructure" practice to adopt to IT, rather to restructure IT (the systems themselves, the developmental methodologies, the backgrounds of the industry leadership, the industry itself) to match the needs of physicians and patients.

The AMA holds a minority of the nation's physicians as members; a 2011 article "American Medical Association membership woes continue" (CMAJ. 2011 Aug 9; 183(11): E713–E714, indicated this:

In the early 1950s, about 75% of US physicians were AMA members. That percentage has steadily decreased over the years. In June, at the annual meeting of its policy-making body, the House of Delegates, the AMA announced that it lost another 12 000 members last year. That brings total membership below 216 000. Up to a third of those members don’t pay the full $420 annual dues, including medical students and residents. Not counting those members, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15% of practising US doctors now belong to the AMA.

Hair-brained schemes to "restructure practice via technology" will likely drop those numbers further.

The National Programme for IT in the NHS (NPfIT) died several years ago (

It is my hope the death of "meaningful use" heralds the death of the equally wasteful and ill-thought-out National Program for health IT in the HHS, a.k.a. HITECH, and a return to recognition of the truth: that health IT is experimental, that it (and its subjects) must be treated with that in mind, that its progress cannot be mandated, and that the technology, as any other IT, needs to be approached with great skepticism e.g. per this article:

Pessimism, Computer Failure, and Information Systems Development in the Public Sector.  (Public Administration Review 67;5:917-929, Sept/Oct. 2007, Shaun Goldfinch, University of Otago, New Zealand).  Cautionary article on IT that should be read by every healthcare executive documenting the widespread nature of IT difficulties and failure, the lack of attention to the issues responsible, and recommending much more critical attitudes towards IT.  link to pdf

-- SS


Trevor3130 said...

Interoperability? Pfffftttt!
Here's my $0.02 for The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.
Clear data road block
How odd that Labor is taking cues from lobbyists for the pathology and medical imaging industries ("Government hits back at claims pap smears will cost more", 8/11). Pathology companies have been a major stumbling block for years in working toward the holy grail of fully integrated health-care data.
I suggest Catherine King refuse to hear another word from pathologists until they manage to put all of a patient's test results in a single electronic document incorporating data from all providers. That single advance would minimise needless duplication, a main driver of over-use of laboratory tests.

Just a pity we cannot turn the clock back thirty years.

The architect of Australia's NEHR failure (the previous Head of Health Department, who anointed herself the System Operator) is now Head of Finance Department, still pulling the strings. Not to worry, though, the current Prime Minister has installed his Digital Transformation Office. Hope is rekindled anew!

Anonymous said...

"He noted that, when the meaningful use incentive program began, few physicians and practices used electronic health records and concerns were that many would not willingly embrace information technology. Now that “virtually everywhere care is delivered has a computer,” it’s time to make health care technology serve beneficiaries and the physicians who serve them, Mr. Slavitt said."

Slavitt acknowledges the deception, suckering the doctors to buy experimental devices to be used in a program that did not have any evidence of benefit.

The vendors made out like bandits.


afraid said...

It is predictable that large gubment programs will be hijacked by profiteers. Given that,is it not reasonable to hold those responsible for creating the sure-to-fail big program responsible?

Anonymous said...

And now we see BHIT I n full flower, random ware takes down a hospital. No harm to patients though I bet ...