From 13th Floor Elevators: “Re: traffic tickets covered by HIPAA. The clerk must have consulted our hospital’s HIPAA officer, who says employees who have babies can’t use hospital e-mail to tell their colleagues as it would be a HIPAA violation. This HIPAA thing needs a lot of rework. And, when was the last time you heard anything about the ‘portability’ in HIPAA?” HIPAA was a pretty good 1.0 effort, but it’s hopelessly outdated, seldom enforced, and watered down by special interests. Pre-Internet privacy laws and information systems are relics that really should be rewritten. As for portability, I don’t see much improvement, especially if you have a pre-existing condition (does “pre-existing” mean before you were born?)
From KitKat: “Re: MD Anderson Cancer Center. Layoffs Monday, with 16 anesthesiologists getting the pink slip.” MDA is looking for $280 million in budget cuts and will start cutting employees within a month. The best thing about the article was this reader comment: “I’m STILL trying to figure out why the new buildings at MD Anderson had to be so over the top lavish; almost like a shrine to cancer.” It’s not just MD Anderson. Lots of hospital executives I’ve known love building fancy structures as a substitute for the imaginary careers they gave up in private industry, always daydreaming that they would be running big for-profit businesses and flying around in corporate jets if they weren’t so selfless. It’s always rationalized that the community wants those magnificent edifices, despite the evidence that suggests what the community really wants is easier hospital parking, reasonable rates, a chance to get in and out of the ED without taking six hours, and interacting with employees who at least pretend to be empathetic. Unfortunately, those big buildings seem to make all of those attributes worse. I would trade all that architecture for a couple of good nurses (especially since you can’t see that imposing facade from your room anyway). Like financial institutions, when you’re selling an intangible, you have to convince customers that it’s real by spiffing up the storefront.
That reminds me of that consumer survey early in the stimulus talks about where they wanted to see healthcare money spent. IT was dead last. Fancy buildings would probably have been there, too, if respondents were asked to rate their importance. So why don’t we give our customers what they want instead of what we think is good for them? Maybe that’s more of that good old paternalism, where you just tell the patient not to worry their pretty little heads because the doctor knows best. You and I are healthcare consumers and patients, so if asked what we would really like to see changed, I bet it would be the easy stuff like what I mentioned above and not buying new IT systems. We want to be respected, informed, consulted. We don’t want to be inconvenienced, harmed by medical error, or infected. We would like to be able to afford the care we need. If IT (and those fancy buildings) can do any or all of those things, consumers will love it, but just having the IT without delivering the results won’t impress anyone except nerds.
I think I need to write a novel since I have this great story idea stuck in my head. Here it is. A fictional foreign industrial conglomerate, despite a generations-long history of shameful behavior (using death camp labor, bribing prospects to get business going back 100 years) wins a huge government contract. Champagne corks are popped back in the home office, stiff executives clumsily attempt fist bumps. Now comes the key scene: at that moment, dozens of unsmiling federal agents crash through the office door, armed with search warrants and evidence boxes. The big government contract had been a sting operation! The conglomerate has been caught red-handed after decades of improper government contracting! I’m trying to decide whether to portray the company’s competitors has having set up the sting, but I need to give that more thought. I’m picturing Dennis Quaid as the humorless government agency head, Maureen McCormick as his love interest, and maybe Rod Blagojevich in his big-screen debut as the conglomerate’s ranking executive. I dunno … not very believable, I guess.
The new BusinessWeek says EMRs may be a waste of government money in The Dubious Promise of Digital Medicine. Points: evidence that EMRs improve patient safety is scant, vendors like selling off-the-shelf systems that are hard to implement and maintain, and HIT special interests have kept government oversight to a minimum. Individuals are called out: Newt Gingrich for playing a heartfelt futurist when he’s getting paid by vendors, Nancy DeParle for having high-dollar Cerner connections, Glen Tullman for working his Obama connection, and McKesson’s lobbyists pushing policy ideas on members of Congress and of the Administration to reward clients for using their aging systems. Several negative hospital EMR experiences are cited. Also mentioned: vendors are pushing for CCHIT as the certifying body, knowing that a group led by a former vendor executive and started by HIMSS will provide a friendlier audience than FDA. OK, the article is all over the place and certainly sought out whatever high-profile negative stories it could come up with, quoting only those who had a bad EMR experience (who never blame their own organizations for choosing or implementing it poorly, of course – everything is the vendor’s fault). Worth a read, but only because lots of people will see it. Its conclusion, however, is entirely reasonable: we’re spending billions on systems developed even before the Bush administration (HW, not Shrub) that haven’t exactly lit healthcare on fire so far. As a taxpayer, you’re taking a bet with billions that a prudent gambler wouldn’t. Water under the bridge, though, so there’s no point pontificating about it now.
Is Apple developing a Mac Tablet and would it be a great platform for EMRs? Good article, good reader comments.
New poll to your right: what’s the impact of Oracle’s acquiring Sun? From my cheap seat, it looks like the showdown to be king of the technology world will be between Oracle and Google. The worst aspect is that Oracle gets MySQL, Oracle’s main (free) competitor that powers much of the Internet (including HIStalk). Oracle hates Microsoft, which is already wheezing, and can inflict serious damage on it by attacking its Office and SQL cash cows with Sun’s free alternatives. Since Oracle is still buying everything in sight, what if it picks up Red Hat? (IBM better strike fast if it still wants to be a playa). Microsoft hasn’t made a good acquisition in years. Proclarity in 2006, maybe, but that’s niche; I can’t think of anything else other than Visio in 2000 since the Great Plains deal didn’t make sense to me. Everything else seems to be add-ons to fix holes in existing products, not anything innovative.
Interesting in the definition of “meaningful use” of EHRs? The VA will provide a live audio broadcast of Tuesday’s NCVHS meeting, which will attempt to create one.
Fujitsu announces its new EMR in Japan: HOME/EGMAIN-GX V2 (don’t they have marketing people over there who could come up with a name that might actually be remembered?) The only Web pages I could find were in Japanese, but it appears to do orders, meds, bed management, and diagnostic imaging.
Reader survey. Important. Complete, please. Thanks.
The economy may be wearing you down a little, but at least nobody’s moving you to a desert and planting bombs in your front yard. Major Patrick Baker is a citizen-soldier and chief nursing officer at Madison County Hospital in London, Ohio, deployed since January to Balad, Iraq as Flight Commander, Flight Clinical Coordinator Team of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group, the largest trauma center in Iraq. He organized a charity marathon in Iraq to coincide with one in his hometown, recruiting 400 airmen, soldiers, and sailors to help raise $8,400 for the American Heart Association in honor of his six-year-old daughter Ellie, who was born with multiple heart problems. Tired of manufactured “heroes” like shallow TV stars and exorbitantly paid athletes? You can e-mail a real one. HIStalk Practice contributor Dr. Gregg Alexander knows him and sent me a link to the video.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, introduces legislation that would create an HIT Public Utility Model that would provide grants to safety net providers that would cover the cost of implementing open source systems plus five years’ maintenance. It would also create a HIT Public Utility Board within ONCHIT to over see the program. He says, “Open source software is a cost-effective, proven way to advance health information technology – particularly among small, rural providers. This legislation does not replace commercial software; instead, it complements the private industry in this field – by making health information technology a realistic option for all providers.” I like it. Jay’s kind of doing his own thing here without being steered by lobbyists and HIMSS, proposing a solution that could put more HIT in the field without just dropping big dollars on private companies. I just wish that, when we talk about open source, it covered more application ground than VistA. It’s good, but not exactly cutting edge, and the number of potential community members is limited to those who happen to know MUMPS programming.
Kaiser Permanente offers members a $5 USB flash drive containing their basic medical information and recent encounter data. A secretary downloads the patient’s data while they wait. But, they have to show up in person to get it. The article omits the most important fact: how do doctors access that data in case of emergency, which is the whole point of getting the USB drive in the first place? Hopefully it is easy, does not require loading anything on the doctor’s PC, and doesn’t require a password if the patient is brought in unconscious. Maybe someone should invent a hardware or software token that would positively identify a PC user as a doctor so they could be given elevated privileges to open the medical files of patients.
Forbes profiles Steve Schelhammer, a former teacher and yearbook salesman who formed disease management company Accordant Health Services, sold it for $100 million, and is now CEO of Phytel, which analyzes EMR data to find non-compliant patients and sends them messages asking them to schedule a visit. Practices pay for the service, but benefit from increased visits.