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Medicine is Still ‘In Denial’ Over Clinical Decision Support

Posted on May 19, 2011 I Written By

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Last month, in my very first post for EMR and HIPAA, I mentioned Dr. Larry Weed in my commentary about the general public’s perception of clinical decision support. I referred to a 2007 study in the journal Medical Decision Making, which said, “Patients may surmise that a physician who uses a [decision support system] is not as capable as a physician who makes the diagnosis with no assistance from a DSS.” I then noted that Weed has been saying for more than 50 years that physicians shouldn’t have to rely on their memory to make clinical decisions when computers can help them process an increasingly voluminous knowledge base.

As it turns out, Weed read my commentary. (I’m guessing that a computer, i.e., Google Alerts, led him to the post. See, computers really can help find the information we’re looking for. Who knew?) And, as it also turns out, Weed and his son, Lincoln, a Washington, D.C.-area attorney who now consults on health privacy issues, just had their latest book, “Medicine in Denial,” published. They both contacted me last week to share this news.

“A culture of denial subverts the health care system from its foundation. The foundation—the basis for deciding what care each patient individually needs—is connecting patient data to medical knowledge. That foundation, and the processes of care resting upon it, are built by the fallible minds of physicians. A new, secure foundation requires two elements external to the mind: electronic information tools and standards of care for managing clinical information,” reads the book’s opening paragraph.

Yep, that sounds like clinical decision support to me.

“Deep disorder pervades medical practice. Disguised in euphemisms like ‘clinical judgment’ and ‘evidence-based medicine,’ disorder exists because medical practice lacks a true system of care. The missing system has two core elements: standards of care for managing clinical information, and electronic information tools designed to implement those standards. Electronic information tools are now widely discussed, but the necessary standards of care are still widely ignored,” reads the book’s description.

The Weeds believe current EHR systems don’t measure up, and they said so in comments submitted in response to the December 2010 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on health IT, which recommended against standardizing EHR formats. “Sound standards for the structure of medical records provide essential standards of care for managing clinical information.  Medical practice needs these standards no less than the domain of commerce needs accounting standards for managing financial information.  Failure of recognize this principle is a root cause of health care’s failures of quality and economy,”  the Weeds said in their comments.

It’s a principle that Larry Weed, 88, has been advocating since he developed the problem-oriented medical record in the 1950s. In 1991, the Institute of Medicine report, “The Computer-Based Patient Record:  An Essential Technology for Health Care,” (revised 1997) said that the problem-oriented medical record “reflects an orderly process of problem solving, a heuristic that aids in identifying, managing and resolving patients’ problems.”

And 20 years later, medicine hasn’t changed much. Perhaps, though, it takes longer than that. Lincoln Weed also referenced a story I wrote for InformationWeek on May 10. I noted that the Consumer Partnership for eHealth’s Consumer Platform for Health IT referred to consumers as “”the most significant untapped resource” in healthcare.

Well, wouldn’t you know, Larry Weed has written the following: “patients are the largest untapped resource in medical care today.” That was from his book, “Medical Records, Medical Education, and Patient Care”. That book was published in 1969.

Instead of ending this post on a down note, let me just add that I would have had an interview with Dr. Weed this week, but he just left the country for a speaking engagement. He’s 88 and still traversing the globe, fighting for what he believes in. Don’t we all wish we had that kind of passion?

Welcome to the EHR, EMR and Healthcare IT Interviews Site!!

Posted on 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.

We’re just getting started with the new EHR, EMR and Healthcare IT interviews website. Thanks for stopping by. Our goal with this site is to interview some of the smartest minds when it comes to EHR, EMR and healthcare IT. We’ll certainly interview a number of people that you know, but also interview a number of people that you probably didn’t know before.

We’ll also do everything we can to interview as many doctors as possible. Our goal will be to find doctors in every different stage of the EMR implementation and selection process. Doctors who haven’t even selected an EMR. Doctors who have been using an EMR for as long as they can remember. Old doctors. Young doctors. Doctors who used one EMR and then switched to a different EMR. Doctors who have been part of a failed EMR implementation. Etc etc etc!

Then of course, we’ll do what we can to interview EMR vendors, healthcare IT vendors, EMR consultants, Practice Managers, Nurses, IT Consultants, etc.

If you couldn’t tell, we want to get all perspectives possible about the goods and bads of EMR. One of my favorite ways to learn is by learning from other’s experiences. Hopefully this blog will become a fantastic resource for those wanting to learn from other smart people.

If you’re someone who would be willing to be interviewed or if you know of smart people we should be sure to interview, just leave a comment on this post.