This is such a time. CIO magazine reaches the country's information technology leadership, including those in heathcare. Hence, canards and meritless defamation of physicians can (and in my experience does) impact the attitudes and decisions of the leaders of the very technology physicians are increasingly dependent upon to deliver safe care.
Ultimately, such misinformation can and does result in patient harm through bad health IT.
Let's start with the title and subtitle alone of an opinion piece in CIO magazine:
March 26, 2015
Paddy Padmanabhan - Opinion
The medical profession needs to get over its fear of information technology
Continued objections to Electronic Health Records ( EHR) by sections of the physician community are bogus. They arise from past entitlements and a lack of accountability.
The term "bogus" has clear meaning:
Bogus: not genuine : counterfeit, sham
This is a laughable yet alarming, cavalier defamation and attempted character assassination of the medical profession.
Mr. Padmanabhan is described as a business leader & entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in Technology and Analytics in the Healthcare sector as well as being a consultant in that domain. I can openly aver that, with an apparent significant bias as seen below towards the medical profession, I would not want him involved in any way in my own care...
There is nothing "bogus" about, for instance,
- The complaints of nearly 40 medical societies ("Meaningful Use Not so Meaningful", http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2015/01/meaningful-use-not-so-meaningul.html),
- Countless nurses ("Nurses Warn That Serious Patient Complications 'Only a Matter of Time' in Open Letter", http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2013/11/another-survey-on-ehrs-affinity-medical.html and "RNs Say Sutter’s New Electronic System Causing Serious Disruptions to Safe Patient Care at East Bay Hospitals" at http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2013/07/rns-say-sutters-new-electronic-system.html; there are links there to still more examples),
- Organizations studying health IT including the U.S. National Academies ("Current Approaches to U.S. Health Care Information Technology are Insufficient to achieve medical leaders' vision of health care in the 21st century and may even set back the cause"), http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12572),
- Institute of Medicine ("Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care", http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2011/11/iom-report-on-health-it-safety-nix-fda.html),
- ECRI Institute (Deep Dive Study on Health IT Safety, http://www.healthit.gov/facas/sites/faca/files/STF_Deep_Dive_Health_Information_Technology_2014-06-13.pdf)
- and others as memorialized on this blog (e.g., http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/search/label/EHR%20death, also http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/search/label/glitch) and elsewhere.
The author risibly dismisses them all with the word "bogus." It might be opined that he was too indolent to conduct research, but I'll just opine he doesn't know what he doesn't know and that the opinion piece was based on simple ignorant arrogance.
I am uncertain what "entitlements" he refers to, but using paper records was not a physician "entitlement" - in fact, they are still used when the lousy hospital IT decides to go on vacation as it recently did, for example, at Children's Hospital Boston ("Boston Children’s emerges from electronic records shutdown", Boston Globe, March 25, 2015, http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/03/25/boston-children-emerges-from-day-shutdown-electronic-medical-records/Q6sE7hRM4CxFeMEDYWP8IK/story.html#).
(Of course, patient safety was not compromised - it never is when the IT goes out - right. See the many posts at the query link http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/search/label/Patient%20care%20has%20not%20been%20compromised.)
Further, the true "lack of accountability" lies with the healthcare IT industry itself and the hospital leadership who agree to their terms of contractual indemnification (Health care information technology vendors' "hold harmless" clause: implications for patients and clinicians. Koppel & Kreda, JAMA. 2009 Mar 25;301(12):1276-8. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.398, http://medecon.pbworks.com/f/IT%20Accountability%20JAMA09.pdf.
Also see my commentary in a JAMA letter to the editor of July 2009 at http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=184302 emphasizing how these arrangements violate Joint Commission safety standards, and my posting my health IT academic site at http://cci.drexel.edu/faculty/ssilverstein/cases/?loc=cases&sloc=koppel_kreda).
And that was just responding to the title and subtitle. Now to the body of the piece:
... In a recent article in a national publication, a member of our physician community raked up a debate by declaring the Electronic Health Records (EHR ) mandate to be a debacle and argued that EHR’s actually harm patients. These are bogus objections.
Congratulations for disrespecting my mother's grave, Mr. Padmanabhan (http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2013/09/on-ehr-warnings-sure-experts-think-you.html) and that of many other people harmed by Information Technology Malpractice as for example in the above links
Also see "The Malpractice Risk of Electronic Health Records", Legal Intelligencer - a Pennsylvania Legal newspaper, March 17, 2015, http://www.thelegalintelligencer.com/most-read-articles/id=1202720405290/The-Malpractice-Risk-of-Electronic-Health-Records.
Thanks for being an expert on the issues you so glibly dismiss, Mr. Padmanabhan. I guess you forgot to check out the AHRQ hazards taxonomy (http://healthit.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/docs/citation/HealthITHazardManagerFinalReport.pdf) and similar resources on health IT risk:
|A "bogus" checklist of known EHR risks from the U.S. government. Click to enlarge.|
Back to the opinion piece:
... According to a Rand Corporation study, the three key objections against the implementation of EHR’s:
--It costs too much to implement an EHR system: Yes, it costs money to implement any new software. Given a choice, physicians would prefer not to use email or even the telephone because all of these things cost money and have no direct relation to the treatment of patients. What these same physicians also fail to mention is that large hospital systems have been extending significant subsidies to small physician practices in order to help them address the costs.
"Given a choice, physicians would prefer not to use email or even the telephone because all of these things cost money and have no direct relation to the treatment of patients." (?)
This is an example of a profound anti-physician bias, although one could argue that the term mentioned by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism, "lunatic triumphalism", comes into play with that statement.
What these same physicians also fail to mention is that large hospital systems have been extending significant subsidies to small physician practices in order to help them address the costs.
And just what % of the total costs of ownership are covered, Mr. Padmanabhan? The financial analyses I see show significant clinician unreimbursed expense for the office.
Inpatient settings - that's another matter entirely - we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars or more per organization.
Perhaps my math is wrong, but hundreds of millions of dollars hospitals dish out on corporate health IT can pay for entire new hospitals, or pay for the medical care of countless disadvantaged people. (e.g., http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2014/06/100-million-epic-install-dampens.html, as well as http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2014/06/in-fixing-those-9553-ehr-issues.html and http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2013/06/want-to-help-hospital-go-bankrupt-get.html)
--It takes time away from patient care: Physicians love to talk about how much they care about being with their patients. However, they also routinely overbook their schedules with the sole intention of increasing patient visits and claiming additional reimbursement.
That's a very serious and, to my knowledge, completely unfounded accusation. Many physicians are burned out from being compelled to see too many patients by administrators, especially if they are employed which is becoming very common. You in my opinion need to be taught how not to hate physicians and other clinicians, Mr. Padmanabhan:
Physician Burnout: It Just Keeps Getting Worse
Medscape, Jan, 26, 2015
A national survey published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012 reported that US physicians suffer more burnout than other American workers. This year, in the Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report, 46% of all physicians responded that they had burnout, which is a substantial increase since the Medscape 2013 Lifestyle Report, in which burnout was reported in slightly under 40% of respondents. Burnout is commonly defined as loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment
Back to the opinion piece:
EHR’s can actually aid their productivity by reducing the time it takes to pull up medical history, so that they have more time to spend on actually talking to their patients.
An expert with far more experience than you, Mr. Padmanabhan, says you are flat wrong (not counting me). His name is Dr. Clement McDonald, and he is an EHR pioneer ("The Tragedy Of Electronic Medical Records", http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-tragedy-of-electronic-medical.html):
... McDonald now has a nationally influential post to promote electronic medical records, as the director of the Lister Hill Center for Biomedical Communications, a part of the National Library of Medicine, which is one of the National Institutes of Health.
During his talk, McDonald released his latest research survey, which found that electronic medical records “steal” 48 minutes per day in free time from primary care physicians.
Back to the opinion of Mr P.:
--EHR systems are hard to use and are not secure: There may be some merit to this. No one is making claims that EHR systems are perfect.
"May be some merit?"
There is perhaps merit to saying Mr. Padmanabhan is either ill-informed, or delivering deliberate misinformation (e.g., "NIST on the EHR Mission Hostile User Experience", http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2011/10/nist-on-ehr-mission-hostile-user.html, and multiple posts on breach issues retrievable via query link http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/search/label/medical%20record%20privacy).
However, there are a few key aspects that these physicians prefer to not acknowledge when making these arguments:
--Shared electronic medical records can reduce expenses: Physicians routinely bill for duplicate medical expenses, such as tests, that would be avoided if the test results can simply be pulled up electronically. This should logically reduce healthcare costs at a system level.
Great in theory, but the real world is just not that simple. Mr. Padmanabhan like many other IT hyper-enthusiasts apparently see IT as a silver bullet. Just put it in and .... presto! All complex multi-factorial social problems are solved, with no ill effects. Perhaps he and other hyper-enthusiastic health IT pundits need to read this article:
Pessimism, Computer Failure, and Information Systems Development in the Public Sector. (Public Administration Review 67;5:917-929, Sept/Oct. 2007, Shaun Goldfinch, University of Otago, New Zealand). Cautionary article on IT that should be read by every healthcare executive documenting the widespread nature of IT difficulties and failure, the lack of attention to the issues responsible, and recommending much more critical attitudes towards IT. linkto pdf
"Doctors and EHRs: Reframing the "Modernists v. Luddites" Canard to The Accurate "Ardent Technophiles vs. Pragmatists" Reality", http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2012/03/doctors-and-ehrs-reframing-modernists-v.html
--Quality of treatment can improve significantly: When a complete medical record is available about a patient, including details of visits to multiple healthcare professionals, the quality of diagnosis and hence treatment decisions should improve greatly. This improves patient safety and reduces medical errors, since everyone has access to the same set of data.
That may be the only accurate statement in the opinion piece. Yet, even this is not proven in the real world, and with today's highly experimental health IT.
--EHR’s can enable preventive diagnosis and early intervention that reduces costs and improves patient health: Enter healthcare analytics. Having patient medical records in an electronic system enables this data to be analyzed for preventive and early action, improved disease management, and reduced hospitalizations. The whole notion of population health management rests on this premise and is hard to argue with.
It's actually easy to argue with, as are most grandiose pronouncements about computational alchemy (i.e., in the world of data, turning lead into gold).
Again in theory, yes, but Mr. Padmanabhan is seemingly unaware of issues I raised in my article "The Syndrome of Inappropriate Overconfidence in Computing: An Invasion of Medicine by the Information Technology Industry?" at http://www.jpands.org/vol14no2/silverstein.pdf. The uncontrolled nature of aggregated EHR data, and social factors that skew and bias it, never seem to enter into the minds of the computational alchemists.
The truth is:
- Physicians, nurses and other clinicians are rightfully afraid of having bad health IT forced upon them due to the constraints of their time, their concentration, and their obligations and legal liabilities;
- Physicians are rightfully unwilling to be the experimental subjects of IT hyper-enthusiasts who are so hooked on theory, they ignore the actual downsides of an immature, experimental technology in the real world, including patient injury and death; and
- Patients should be scared to death of this technology as it now exists in the real world - and should also object to being experimental subjects for life-critical software debugging (e.g., see "We’ve resolved 6,036 issues and have 3,517 open issues" (http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2013/11/weve-resolved-6036-issues-and-have-3517.html), especially without informed consent of the risks.
I note that I feel dirtied even having to write this post.
A colleague observed:
.. And I suppose all those current med students and residents who grew up with information technology and have known nothing but EHR’s are “afraid” of information technology? I’m hearing complaints from the younger generation about the problems with using them.
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