During National Health IT Week, Let’s Set Our Sights on Advancing Healthcare
As the U.S. marks National Health IT Week, let’s acknowledge that the EHR is now an entrenched piece of infrastructure at virtually every U.S. hospital. And while health IT is making positive contributions to healthcare access and quality, many technology challenges remain – just ask any physician about their experience using their hospital’s EHR.
Why aren’t we doing better at fulfilling the promise of healthcare digitization and realizing a return on our national investment? There are several parts to that answer. One relates to the government’s involvement. Since the advent of meaningful use, everyone has focused on meeting government-imposed requirements. For many, of necessity, this was about meeting the letter of the law, not the spirit. This essentially killed innovation as research and development budgets and deployments focused on meeting the specific requirements of meaningful use rather than innovating to improve the cost/quality of healthcare.
We have to realize that using computers in medicine is necessary but not sufficient to achieve transformation. We cannot expect to see major benefits from computerization if we simply use computers to do the same things we would have done without them. In order to realize the full potential of healthcare digitization, the industry must begin to rethink how it operates, given that records now are digitized.
The current generation of EHRs fell victim to the “automate what is there” problem. Almost all EHRs present the same information, the same way, regardless of the specialty of the user, the patient situation, or the care setting. This is because these EHRs are modeled after the paper chart. It is impossible to make a paper chart dynamically adapt and present the most pertinent information given the situation, but it is very possible to have computers do this.
Ultimately, the computer will become as integral and indispensable to patient care as the stethoscope. (Physicians don’t think twice about using a stethoscope; indeed, they couldn’t imagine not using one.) Then, and only then, will we start to see the full value of healthcare’s digital transformation.
[Adapted from Paul Brient’s post, “To Advance Healthcare, We Need True Health IT Transformation.” PatientKeeper is a National Health IT Week partner.]