Realizing the Value of Health IT

Posted on September 16, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been focused on the value of healthcare IT for a long time. Obviously, I’ve been particularly focused on the value of EHR including a whole series of posts on the benefits of EHR (which I need to finish). I’m a huge fan of the value of EHR and healthcare IT, but I also am a realist. I realize that we aren’t getting all of the value out of healthcare IT that we could be getting. I also realize that poor health IT implementations can actually decrease value as opposed to increasing the value of health IT. Plus, I also see a huge disconnect between the value government sees in healthcare IT and what doctors find valuable.

If you don’t believe healthcare is missing out on the value healthcare IT could provide we don’t need to look any further than the fax machine. A recent CovisintPorter Research study found that “76% of respondents stated that they are handling their inflow of information via Fax.” Mr H from HISTalk aptly described this: “Healthcare: the retirement home for 1980s technology.”

I’ve also seen illustrated dozens of times the way a poor implementation can actually cause more problems than it solves. The Sutter EHR implementation is one example to consider. No doubt there is a lot of internal politics involved in the challenges that Sutter is facing with their EHR, but soon I’ll be publishing on Hospital EMR and EHR some first hand experiences with that EHR implementation. It’s a sad thing to see when an EMR implementation is done the wrong way. However, the opposite is also true. I’ve seen hundreds of organizations that love their EHR and can’t imagine how they practiced medicine before EMR.

One thing I’ve never heard a practicing doctor say is that they want to show meaningful use to be able to realize the value of health IT. I’ve certainly heard doctors say they have to show meaningful use to get the government money. I’ve certainly heard doctors say they want to show meaningful use to avoid the EHR penalties. I haven’t heard any doctor say they want to show meaningful use because it provides value to their clinic.

To me this illustrates the wide divide between the value government wants to see from healthcare IT and the value healthcare IT can provide a healthcare organization. Currently the government is riding on the back of incentive money and penalties to motivate healthcare organizations. No doubt this has caused many healthcare organizations to adopt an EHR. However, the incentive money and penalties won’t last forever. Then what?

What’s sad for me is that EHR adoption was starting to gain some momentum pre-HITECH act. There was a definite shift towards EHR adoption as organizations realized they needed to head that direction. Then, once the HITECH act hit it threw every EHR organizations plans out the door and created an irrational hysteria around EHR. This has led to irrational selection of EHR vendors, rushed EHR implementations, and cemented in many Jabba the Hutt EHR vendors that the relatively free EHR market wouldn’t have adopted pre-HITECH. To be honest, I’m ready for a return to a more rational EHR market based on value created. That’s when we’ll truly start realizing the value of health IT.

Beyond EHR, we need more brave leaders in healthcare IT that aren’t afraid to move beyond the fax machine. Leaders who don’t need a business model to realize that we can do better than the fax machine and other 80’s technology. It shouldn’t take five committees, two research studies, a certification, and outside money for an organization to do what’s right for patients. In fact, doing so is the very best business model in the world.

What scares me is that we’re going to miss out on the value of healthcare IT because our healthcare leaders are too busy fighting the proverbial meaningful use, ICD-10, and ACO fires.