Monday, August 15, 2011

Congress Turns Its Attention to the Perils of the Electronic Health Record (EHR)

"Hmmm.... sure hope this works...!"
The Disease Management Care Blog admittedly enjoys being contrarian.  Yet, its skepticism about  the value of the electronic health record may have crossed into the clinical pathology of an oppositional-defiant disorder when it was recently quoted in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Is it time for the DMCB to let this go and move on?  Readers are probably immune to its dysfunctional anti-EHR bombast and Dr. Mostashari and his EHR-blinkered colleagues are unlikely to change their minds anyway.  Why bother?

But suppose it wasn't the DMCB but a member of Congress that raised the alarm?  Anything they do wouldn't make much difference to the DMCB either, but it's still worth reading this letter from Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC). As Chair of the House Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology, this nurse-legislator is alarmed over the same issues raised by your DMCB: persistent prescribing errors as well as the advent of new ways to harm patients.  While Representative Ellmers reminds readers that anecdotes of patient injury continue to mount, the DMCB did a quick literature search and had no trouble finding strong research studies that show that the EHR's vaunted "decision support" systems that are supposed to guide physician in the course of patient care are duds, the overall impact on basic cost and quality is questionable and, even worse, that we often don't even know how to reliably measure quality in an EHR environment.  And in the meantime, a vulgar mix of political money and connections may have only just begun.

But suppose it wasn't a member of Congress, but John Halamka, the wunderkind physician CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess who was warning us that health care is.... different?  Now that's a shrewd insight says the DMCB.  But it wonders how Dr. H can be so confident that this will get all straightened out by 2015.

Until the EHR supposedly gets fixed four years from now, Representative Ellmers is worried about how many more patients could be harmed. She is asking Secretary Sebelius to consider a study to examine the issue.  Good idea, but the DMCB wonders if Ms. Sebelius will even bother with a response.  Given the partisan disdain between the Administration and the House Republicans, the DMCB thinks the likelihood so low, that there's a better chance it will see Representative Bachman blink during a televised interview.  Stay tuned!

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