There is an odd parallel between consequences of U.S. government policy in the commercial floriculture industry and the EHR business.
It seems for decades the U.S., in an effort to stem coca production, has provided financial incentives for Colombian farmers to grow roses instead of the precursor to cocaine, and has provided a massive market for that colorful Colombian product. A presumably unintended (and ironic) consequence of this policy is that the once thriving California flower industry – now decimated by cheap foreign imports — is turning to (legal) marijuana cultivation to make up for lost revenue.
Similarly, there was a perverse, surely unintended consequence in the government’s Meaningful Use program. By defining specific functional criteria for EHRs and incentivizing healthcare providers to buy and deploy “authorized” systems, we now have a host of under-performing EHR systems that severely limit the productivity and efficiency of physicians throughout the U.S. healthcare system. Systems meant to improve patient care have, to date, hampered it – at least as measured by the percentage of work time physicians spend with patients vs. handling administrative tasks. What’s more, as provider organizations now seek to retroactively enhance and optimize their under-performing EHRs, that effort is taking money and focus away from the next big (also government-sponsored) systemic challenge in healthcare IT: value-based reimbursement.
Nearly everybody agrees that the transition to value-based reimbursement is a vital initiative for the U.S. healthcare system, least we continue down the path of having the best healthcare in the world become increasingly unaffordable for more people – and eventually bankrupt the country. So let’s first resolve the shortcomings of existing EHRs in order to give providers the rightful benefits of technology; then we can apply budget and bandwidth to develop and deploy the IT necessary to support value-based reimbursement. Think of it as the healthcare equivalent of a pot full of roses.