Now that Barack Obama has told people that health IT is on his radar screen for public investment, all the interest groups are lining up. Below are some excerpts from a blog post by the head of the Commission on Health Information Technology, a nonprofit group that certifies electronic health records for standards, functionality and interoperability. For a while now, health record products have been applying for certification by his group. Plus, he’s a former physician. He’s not uninformed. But I can’t really agree with him.
“… even a 1% improvement in the efficiency of our $2.2 trillion healthcare spend would put us in positive payback territory… Most doctors know they need EHRs and many will respond to an economic push right now. And the industry supplying those EHRs is a competitive, diverse marketplace that will respond to growing demand with increased capital investment and job growth.”
I disagree that most doctors know they need EHRs. I’ve been working with small practices trying help them decide on deployment for years, and the word in the physician community, at least in Arizona, is that most of the deployments do not save time or costs as they are supposed to. This is partially because the products are complex and require a great deal of training as they are built now. The worst are the industry leaders in use by many hospitals. The doctors are trying to wait it out until they can retire, except for the younger ones who grew up with IT and demand it. This creates enormous conflict in any practice of more than a single doc: each provider has a different theory and a different need and a different favorite.
To make it more complex, the turnover in medical support personnel, front office and back office, is often frequent, so the training on these complicated products is ongoing and expensive. Support, services and training are the model by which some of these software companies increase their revenues.