Consumers and Health Information Technology: A Top 10 List

In honor of National Health IT Week (May 14 – 18), a week-long forum dedicated to increasing the awareness and impact of IT for healthcare, QuadraMed compiled a list of the Top 10 reasons consumers should care about medical technology. All the healthcare IT (HIT) vendors are out in force this week pushing their wares but I thought QuadraMed’s focus on why consumers should care was unique.

Consumers and Health Information Technology: A Top 10 List

10. HIT Improves the Quality of Care Received
9. HIT is Critical in the Event of a Nation-Wide Emergency
8. HIT Increases Accountability from Providers
7. HIT Prevents Medical Errors and Saves Consumers’ Lives
6. HIT Can Empower Consumers to Make Smarter Healthcare Decisions
5. HIT Saves Consumers Money
4. HIT Allows Nurses to Spend More Time with Patients
3. HIT Increases the Health of the Entire American Population
2. HIT Keeps Hospitals Profitable
1. HIT Decreases Billing Errors

Now, I’m not sure I agree with all the 10 items but I applaud QuadraMed’s effort to sell this to the consumers. Without consumer action, healthcare IT will be relegated to the backend and won’t really achieve the kinds of results that are possible with consumers in the driving seat. Much as consumers pushed banking and retails systems to open up and has brought auto and home insurance firms kicking and screaming into the 21st century, if consumers really demanded more from their doctors and hospitals we might actually be able to use healthcare IT to do the kinds of things QuadraMed is saying in their top 10 list.

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4 thoughts on “Consumers and Health Information Technology: A Top 10 List

  1. Arent the following 2 enough to legitimize our work? What could matter more?

    7. HIT Prevents Medical Errors and Saves Consumers’ Lives
    6. HIT Can Empower Consumers to Make Smarter Healthcare Decisions

  2. A great passage from a book I am reading: “…The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie-deliberate, contrived, and dishonest- but the myth, the persistent, persuasive, and unrelaistic myth. Too often we hold fast to cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the confort of the opinions without the disconfort of the thought…” This is a quote from one of the speeches of one of the brightest minds in public service that this country has ever had, John F. Kennedy. God, what a perfect and beautiful description of our mentality. I found it today. This is the case with use of HIT too. Lets consider these famous 10 points and why each of them is a myth:

    1. Hospitals and providers leave on the table approximately 20 to 30% of what they are entitled to get from payers because of problems/mistakes in claim submission and billing processes. Almost all of them (the hospitals I have worked with at least) use certains types of electronic billing systems. Does this happen because providers do not use the proper IT or because the IT is not the the magic we need? I think the second is the truth.

    2. There is no hard data to support the myth that IT keeps hospitals profitable. It is a shame for a hospital not being financially viable in this market where there is no scarce demad. Good management keep a hospital profitable. Yes, good management knows that it needs IT to keep a hospital profitable. But it is the management the primary factor, not the IT. In fact a smart manager determines what types of data and the proper IT to process and avail them with data is needed. The fact is that software companies have made their products mythical regardless the fact that most of them are counterproductive (almost all the EMR are cumbersome, non user-friendly, and time consuming. This leads me to the point 3.

    3. The use of actual IT and EMR systems leaves little or no time for medical personnel to spend with patients, if they ever care to use them and put the notes in the system. The fact is that often times we are redirected to paper chart for details.

    4 and 5. There is no data that HIT saves consumers money. This is simply misleading. There is no way that consumers can use the data from any existing HIT and make any type of decisions. In fact what actual HIT lacks so far is the capacity to empower the user to make smart decisions. By “the user” I mean the management (forget the people). When I say the management I mean the part of the health care structure that needs the most a proper HIT. All the rest can live (conduct thier business) without. I want to emphasize this: “Only the management needs the HIT”. There is why:

    10. I am skiping the points 6-9 because it is not worth. About quality of care. I am afraid that americans forget about their bright people and great minds when it comes to quality. Demings (and others have elaborated/applied it in health care) once said that good management equals quality improvement and quality improvement starts with measuring. None of the HIT systems in use today are used to measure anything. Processes of care can not be improved without measuing. Not that HIT lack the capability. As unfriendly and cumbersome as they are some of them have buried in them wealth of data that could be sued for this purpose. Unfortunately these gold mines are not exploited. It is the people who do not use them. Often becasue they do not know that measuring is needed to improve the quality and reenginer the processes. This beacuse everybody thinks that flags and alerts are solution to quality. And most of the blame goes to software companies that to make thier products marketable have created the MYTH of flags and alerts and cook books for assiting physicians in making clinical decisions (physicians are not dumb to believe such things and they often ignore flags and alerts and what to do that keep popping up on EMR screens.

    By the way, I am an avid supporter of using IT in health care. Just not as we are told and because we are told to believe in myths. We need something more flexible, elegant, firendly, and effective. It can be done. Just we need to reject the myths and as JFK says endure the disconfort of the thought…

  3. i agree that some of their claims seem a bit far-fetched. certainly the software doesn’t prevent *all* medical errors and to state that IT will necessarily save money is a touch optimistic. In fact, healthcare IT will obviously cost money in the shortterm, and only save money if a good system is selected and correctly implemented.

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