Why health IT systems integrate poorly today, and what future EHRs can do about it

See on Scoop.ithealthcare technology

Physicians, patients, healthcare providers, and other health industry participants have been clamoring for modernization of health IT systems for years. Recently, the HITECH Act, meaningful use, and other major government initiatives led by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) have been accelerating the demand. Unfortunately, as stated eloquently in the recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article “Escaping the EHR Trap – The Future of Health IT,” health IT systems are trapped in legacy infrastructures:

 

“It is a widely accepted myth that medicine requires complex, highly specialized information-technology (IT) systems. This myth continues to justify soaring IT costs, burdensome physician workloads, and stagnation in innovation — while doctors become increasingly bound to documentation and communication products that are functionally decades behind those they use in their ‘civilian’ life.”

 

The problem is not that engineers don’t know how to create the right technology solutions or that we’re facing a big governance problem. Rather, the real cross-industry issue is much bigger: Our approach and the methods we have chosen for integration are opaque, decades old, and they reward closed systems. Drs. Mandl and Kohane summarize it well in their NEJM article by saying “a few companies controlling much of the market remain entrenched in ‘legacy’ approaches, threatening other vendors’ viability.” They elaborated further on what they feel is the reason:

 

“We believe that EHR [electronic health record] vendors propagate the myth that health IT is qualitatively different from industrial and consumer products in order to protect their prices and market share and block new entrants. In reality, diverse functionality needn’t reside within single EHR systems, and there’s a clear path toward better, safer, cheaper, and nimbler tools for managing healthcare’s complex tasks.”

See on radar.oreilly.com

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