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More Unrealistic Expectations From the Public, This Time Involving CDS

Posted on April 21, 2011 I Written By

Yet again, someone needs to educate the general public about healthcare in general and health IT in particular.

HealthLeaders last week asked the question, “Does Decision Support Make Docs Look Dumb?” The story, apparently based on a 2007 study (not 2008, as HealthLeaders reported) in the journal Medical Decision Making, says: “Most clinicians would agree that evidence-based decision support tools have the potential to improve clinical quality. But patients’ perception of the tools—and the physicians who use them—might be yet another barrier to their adoption. The problem is twofold: Some patients are skeptical of docs who need a computer to help them make a diagnosis. And some physicians don’t want to be seen as being too reliant on technology.”

We’ve long known that physicians have resisted clinical decision support, for a variety of reasons. They trust their professional judgment. When they only have a few minutes with each patient, they believe it simply takes too long to look up information that might help reach a more accurate diagnosis or devise a better care plan. The technology simply isn’t up to snuff. Or there isn’t enough electronic data available on each patient for CDS to have a positive effect.

But to read the conclusion of that Medical Decision Making study is to see an entirely different excuse for shunning clinical decision support: “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.”

HealthLeaders interviews other clinicians and researchers who have found similar sentiments. “Patients object when they ask their doctor a question and then she or he immediately types in the question into their laptop and then reads back the answer. It gives patients the feeling that they just paid a $25 copay to have someone Google something for them,” Illinois State University information systems professor James Wolf tells the publication.

“Physicians are reluctant to adopt computer-based diagnostic decision aids, in part due to the fear of losing the respect of patients and colleagues,” Wolf adds.

If this is true, it represents failures on many levels. IT systems designers haven’t made their technology easy to use. Physicians and healthcare entities haven’t done a good job educating patients and journalists like myself have truly failed the public by continuing to feed them false expectations about healthcare.

First off, Wolf’s statement that patients feel like they wasted only a $25 copay perpetuates the myth that a physician office visit only costs $25. If patients think they may have wasted $25, how do you think insurance companies and employers must feel that another $150 of their money went out the window?

The part about losing respect is perhaps more troubling. Physicians need to put their fragile egos away and do whatever they need to do to provide better care. The status quo just isn’t cutting it.

I’ve had the distinct honor of interviewing Dr. Larry Weed on several occasions. Weed, the octogenarian inventor of the problem-oriented medical record and the SOAP note, has been calling for CDS and other IT for more than half a century. Yes, more than half a century. He’s been actively working on such technology since the early 1970s. In a 2009 interview with the Permanente Journal, Weed said:

Computer technology maximized access to voluminous data and knowledge, thereby exposing the limited information processing capacity of the human mind. Scientists cope with this limitation by controlling the research environment, defining the variables involved, and limiting the scope of their investigations. Practicing physicians do not have that luxury. The time constraints of practice and the enormous scope of information implicated by multiple problems in unique patients make it impossible for the human mind to function with scientific rigor. Physicians inevitably resort to dangerous cognitive shortcuts.

I realized that medicine must transition from an era where knowledge and information processing capacity resides inside a physician’s head to a new day where information technology would provide knowledge and the processing capacity to apply it to detailed patient data. The physicians’ unaided minds are incapable of recalling all the necessary knowledge from the literature and processing it with data from the unique patient. An epidemic of errors and waste is occurring as we persist in trying to do the impossible. Changing this requires that we recognize the crucial distinction between electronic access to information and electronic processing of information. This requires a rational standard of data organization in medical records. Yet, these points are still not recognized in most current discussions of health information technology.

As a result, I have been involved for the last 60 years in trying to design and develop a medical care system in which patients are no longer dependent on the limited, personal knowledge their caregivers happen to possess. The medical care system must resemble the transportation system, where consumers use knowledge captured in maps, road signs, computerized navigation devices, and the like at the time of need. Patients, like travelers, will be expected from childhood on to develop the necessary skills to navigate the system.

At all times, patients should be supported by caregivers who are highly trained in the necessary hands-on skills, like removing the appendix or listening to heart sounds, just as in the travel system there are pilots, mechanics, air-traffic controllers, and others who perform functions that travelers cannot perform.

Yet, few outside of academic medicine have ever heard of Weed and his pioneering work. Instead, we rely on shoddy reporting and sound bites designed to score political points to shape our opinions. Why do you think the debate around “healthcare reform” focused so much on insurance coverage rather than actual care? And why do you think patients still believe office visits and prescriptions really cost just $10 or $20 or $30? And why do so many people still expect their physicians to know everything?

We must do better.

The Meaningful Use Sky is Falling

Posted on January 28, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The always opinionated Anthony Guerra has an article up on Information Week that describes why he thinks the Meaningful Use sky is falling. Add that to a recent comment I got on a previous post that links to a Healthcare Data Management article talking about the potential repeal of the HITECH act and it seems worthwhile to assess the state of meaningful use.

I’ll start with the potential repeal of meaningful use first. We’ve known for a long time that the house was going to be going after healthcare reform once the republicans took over control of the house. In fact, we posted about the potential impacts to HITECH from the new Congress before.

I personally get the feeling that not much has changed on this front. I’m going to reach out to some of the government liasons for EHR vendors that I know that follow this even closer than I do. However, I still believe that:
1. The HITECH funding or at least the Medicare and Medicaid stimulus funding is safe from Congress. I’ve read this a couple of places and so I believe it to be true.
2. Any legislation that is passed by the house still has to pass through the democratic controlled Congress and avoid the Presidential veto. These two seem unlikely.

Of course, when it’s government work you could always be surprised by some loophole in the process that impacts funding or legislation. I won’t be surprised if one of these loop holes appears and affects the HITECH act. However, I still argue that if something does happen to HITECH, it will likely be a casualty of some other political agenda (ie. cutting whatever costs they can find) and not actually because they were specifically targeting HITECH.

Long story short: I still feel like the EHR incentive portion of HITECH is likely safe. Maybe some of the other funding will be cut short. We’ll see.

Now to the points that Anthony Guerra makes in his article. He describes the challenges that many hospitals are facing in regards to meaningful use. Plus he highlights the potential difference in the number of people who “think they qualify for the money” and those who “plan to apply.”

I might argue that if EHR adoption is the goal, then this might not be such a bad result. The idea of “forcing” meaningful use on people has always bothered me a little bit. Encouraging people to show meaningful use is only as good as the meaningful use criteria. If the meaningful use criteria is not very good, then do we really want everyone showing meaningful use?

For example, imagine that a doctor or hospital decides to use an EHR based on the EHR software’s ability to improve the efficiency of their office and the quality of the services they provide to the patient, but deems meaningful use as contrary to those goals. This seems like a great outcome to me. In fact, it seems like a better outcome than a doctor trying to force themselves into the meaningful use hole.

Obviously there are parts of meaningful use that can be very beneficial. For example, having an EMR that can communicate using a standard format (CCD for example) is important and valuable. If it is beneficial, then I see most doctors implementing these features regardless of whether they showed meaningful use or not.

One thing definitely seems clear from all the surveys and other stats I have: interest in EMR has never been higher. Whether that translates to “meaningful use” of a “certified EHR” or physicians meaningfully using an EHR of their choice, is fine with me.

You know my mantra: Select and implement an EMR based on the benefits that you and your clinic want to receive from the EMR. Don’t select and implement it based on a government handout. Those hand outs will be gone after a few years, but your EMR will be with you long after.

EMR Conference Thoughts

Posted on September 10, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. 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 really enjoying the EMR conference yesterday and look forward to it again today. I’m a bit tired from it all, but the people at the conference have been great. It’s pretty small in numbers, but I’ve enjoyed the small intimate crowd and the smart people I’ve met.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people who’ve asked if I’m going to various conferences. I’d like to go to more, but I must admit that it’s quite an expensive (financially and time) to go to a conference. I am planning to make the trek out to HIMSS 11 in Orlando and I posted the first HIMSS 11 keynote speakers on EMR and EHR.

I’ve got at least a dozen new blog topics from this conference that I’ll be posting soon. So, look forward to some good stuff over the next couple weeks.

If I had a quick takeaway from this conference so far, I’d say that I don’t think that we have an idea of the impact that healthcare reform can and will have on healthcare IT. There have been a number of people talking about in their presentations and in side conversations about the potential impact of healthcare reform. In fact, it seems like the uncertainty of it all might be the worst aspect. As one speaker said, In the face of uncertainty most people decide to do nothing. Sounds like the past year and a half in the EMR world, no?

Kathleen Sebelius on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Posted on August 15, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com 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 InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

On the weekend I try and go a little big lighter since not as many people read on the weekend. This weekend I decided to go really light and post a couple video clips of Kathleen Sebelius’ appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Kathleen Sebelius Pt. 1
www.thedailyshow.com
Kathleen Sebelius Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com

Thanks to Neil Versel for pointing out this videos. Have a great weekend.