Meaningful Use And Health IT Innovation

Today I caught an excellent post on HIT Consultant by standards architect Keith Boone (aka @motorcycleguy on Twitter) on how Meaningful Use is affecting health IT. In his article, Boone argues that Meaningful Use requirements are stifling health IT innovation in some instances:

When you put an entire industry under the MU pressure cooker, the need to meet Federal Mandates overwhelms anything else.  The need to develop software that is able to support a large number of externally controlled mandates can, and in many cases, has resulted in bad engineering.  You can’t innovate well on a deadline.

Boone says he’s seen many instances where developers produce a capability that meets MU requirements but doesn’t meet the needs of the customer. He suggests, quite credibly in my view, that with Meaningful Use requirements dominating EMR development, that “neither developers nor end users really learn the lessons Meaningful Use is attempting to teach.”

That being said, he does cite a few instances where Meaningful Use has actually succeeded in supporting innovation, including:

* The Blue Button Plus supports a new, higher level of patient access to their data,and is built from components and requirements already present in Stage 2.

* The Query Health initiative, he suggests, has done innovative work that supports not only its stated focus (health research) but also automation of quality measurement using HL7′s HQMF.

But the bottom line remains — and this is me talking here, not Boone — that Meaningful Use will inevitably focus EMR vendors on developing to the standard, not coming up with neat innovations that may not meet the requirement. There’s just no way around it.

What we will see more of, meanwhile, is applications which serve as an extra layer or function to EMRs. As a recent story in MedCityNews notes, new EMR-related innovations range from Modernizing Medicine’s touch-based electronic medical assistant for specialists to healthfinch, a technology which standardizes care protocols for the 80 percent of stable patients they see so they can apply their time and skills to the sickest 10 percent to 20 percent.

Readers, what technologies are you seeing which enhance the experience of using an EMR?