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Readers Write: Dueling Myths: Interoperability and Bending the Cost Curve 1/23/13

January 23, 2013 Readers Write No Comments

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Dueling Myths: Interoperability and Bending the Cost Curve
By David Lareau

1-23-2013 7-25-06 PM

We’ve been hearing for so long about how interoperability is going to do wonderful things that we may have lost sight of the fact that it isn’t actually real yet.

Just look at the sharing of patient clinical information between systems. HHS has just come out with a press release in which they highlight that the penalty per incident for HIPAA violations can be as high as $1.5M. Healthcare executives are being told, “Make your system interoperable, but if you make a mistake, you’ll pay.” Is it any wonder vendors have put clinical data in silos with massive protections around it?

Maybe a bit of reality is getting through. At least they removed the requirement to process incoming clinical quality measure data from MU stage 2, although that seems like a moot point since no one is sending it out except to the government.

But even with these mixed messages in our industry, there is hope. Within the next year or so, new companies will enter the market with systems that are being designed from the ground up to share and distribute clinical information using some of the same methods as social networks. One of the key factors in getting to market quickly for these new entrants is that they don’t have to build upon 15 or more years of “already poured concrete.”

A front-page article in the Washington Post this week said that healthcare is driving job growth in the Washington, DC, area. Read a bit further and you get to these tidbits:

  • “Northern Virginia’s Inova Health System added about 1,000 positions in 2012”
  • “The growth at Inova last year was largely a result of a major initiative to overhaul its medical records program”

OK, I love it that people are gearing up to update their systems and that jobs are being created, but someone please tell me how that helps us bend the cost curve down? I’m not hearing much about clinician productivity increasing, and I seem to remember from Econ 101 that there is an inverse relationship between cost and productivity. Productivity goes down, cost goes up, and vice versa.

Meanwhile, we hear rumors about Meaningful Use Stage 4 when we’re trying to read the crystal ball about Stage 3 and gear up for ICD-10-CM. I must tell you, I don’t know about the cost curve bending down any time soon, but I sure can tell you that my anxiety curve is going up.

David Lareau is chief executive officer of Medicomp Systems of Chantilly, VA.

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