[ Thursday, November 10, 2005 ]
Grain of Salt?
According to some folks
(coincidentally, or not, Kalorama is the Greek word for Buena Vista), "clinical IT" in the healthcare industry is poised for rapid growth. Technology has been a big part of healthcare for at least as long as healthcare has been an industry; think of all the advances in medical care that are specifically technology-related, from imaging to radiation treatment to robotic surgery. And most participants in the healthcare industry are, and have always been, more technology-adaptive than the rest of the population. However, despite this bent toward technology generally, IT applications like EMRs have lagged behind in development (your local Blockbuster video store probably has better customer computer records than your pediatrician), and therefore there's obviously room to grow that business. But have doctors (and other healthcare prime movers) become more likely to adopt technology than they were yesterday? Are there new technologies available that weren't there yesterday, so that doctors who hadn't jumped yet would get up and migrate? If not, why would there be the sudden movement toward clinical IT?
I believe that the answer is a definite "maybe." CMS has increased the likelihood of the use of electronic information by pushing electronic filing for Medicare claims by all but the smallest of providers. HIPAA has increased the likelihood of the use of technology by pushing the standardization of EDI. HHS has increased the likelihood of the use of technology (at least of EMRs) by pushing Vista. And the Bush Administration generally has been pushing technology by the appointment of Dr. Brailer and the establishment of the healthcare information technology "Community."
Taken individually, one could argue against the transformative value of any of these actions. CMS' efforts would do no more than getting people to use email rather than faxes. HIPAA looked like it could be a tipping point, but it's been out there for years and the rock hasn't budged (probably because HIPAA caused lots of trouble on the privacy and security side, which may have even detracted from EDI development on the transactions side). Vista's availability might do more harm to the development of EMRs than help, particularly if it leads to the "VHS effect" (where the better technology, Sony's "beta" format, was supplanted by the VHS format for video cassettes due to the exagerrated market force of the multiple VHS format users). The impact of Dr. Brailer (for whom I have the deepest admiration) and the Community is yet to be seen.
However, perhaps there will be a cumulative effect of all these efforts, and a quantum leap in clinical IT is possible. If it happens, I won't be surprised; if it doesn't, I won't be surprised either.
Jeff [10:04 AM]
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