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CIO Unplugged – 6/15/09

June 15, 2009 News No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Meaningful Meaningful Use?
By Ed Marx

I ran a ‘night before vacation’ errand to Loews. As I completed the purchase, the store manager interrupted on the overhead, “employees and customers, head immediately to the break room. A tornado has been spotted and is headed our direction.” The tornado never materialized and we were cleared to leave. The rains were torrential, coming in successive waves, each one more violent than the previous. The storm died down but then kept returning. Over the next 24 hours, we had enough rain and lightning to shut down the airport for several hours, delaying our trip…which gave me time to create this post. We may have set a record for precipitation. I don’t believe we will need to water our lawn for the rest of the summer.

There is another type of watering that does not saturate but dilutes. We use concentrates that require adding water to dilute the mix, making it less powerful. Coffee is a good example. I like strong coffee, so I often add more grounds than required. Others like to pour half a cup and then fill with water. This dilutes the intent of the coffee, and as a card carrying Starbucks aficionado, I find the practice almost heretical.

The official definition of “meaningful use” will emerge this month. As a healthcare executive and tax payer, I will be offended if the clarified meaning waters down the intent of the original language. Indications are that, as a byproduct of our political process, the official definition will lack the intended punch that could truly advance the adoption of healthcare information technology to improve outcomes. In other words, it will be watered down. Given the incentive nature (increased payments) for meaningful use, it’s hard to understand why anyone would set the bar so low. If the goal is to accelerate change, we need to shake off the political pressures and do the right thing.

Contemplate the following. CPOE would not be required for a couple of years. Initially, a 50% order rate would be considered meaningful. Health Information Exchange is considered achieved if you are able to send and received scanned documents. Clinical decision support, arguably the “holy grail” when it comes to clinical benefit realization, may not be required until 2015. That’s 6 years away! Incentives should be a stretch goal, not something already achieved by a majority of hospitals today.

I recommend taking an activist approach and pushing for higher standards. Do we want change, or not? As healthcare executives, we can exert profound influence in our communities, professional societies, affinity groups, and government to ask for more meaningful meaningful use. Let’s push ourselves and our broken healthcare system to accelerate the adoption of healthcare information technology. Who drinks watered down coffee anyway?


Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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