Healthcare IT: A premonition

As I walked through the offices of one of my clients last week I kept passing errant lines of code that had fallen to the floor throughout the hospital.  Each time I passed one I retrieved it and dropped it in a folder.  Eating lunch in the cafeteria, I laid the lines of code in front of me on the café table—HIE, EHR, Meaningful Use, HIPAA, and one bit of code on Accountable Care Organizations—not sure how that one got in there; probably written by a healthcare futurist with a pet unicorn.

I was reminded of the time a purchased an unassembled gas grill—why pay an extra hundred dollars to have someone connect Part A to Part B?  As I learned, the reason to pay the hundred dollars is so that at the end of the process you are not left with parts K and Q and no idea where they go.  The grill started just fine.  Apparently, parts K and Q had a lot do with turning off the grill—the lid melted seven years ago, and the grill has served as our home’s eternal flame ever since.

I dare say there are many organizations whose systems are missing important lines of code.  Maybe that is why more than half of the large providers will soon discover their EHR functions more like a multi-million dollar scanner than an EHR.

A major problem for healthcare information technology (HIT) is the disruption it has brought upon itself.  If we are honest about HIT, it was not working all that well before we started disrupting it.  EHR was not a natural fit on the prior architecture.  To make EHR fit required that bits of the old be cut away and new applications had to be hammered and welded into place.  Many chasing Meaningful Use have to take short cuts to meet it.  Getting something to fit is not the same as getting something to function.

Once the EHR is in place, out come the hammers to get EHR to meet Meaningful Use.  The code and interfaces are chiseled away, and functionality is sacrificed.  Now leaders are trying to figure out what must be sacrificed to get ACOs hammered into place.

The old architecture was never architected to support an EHR or an ACO.  That means that many, many hospitals are a few months or one or two years away from having to rethink their EHR strategy.  The short cuts and dropped lines of code will have degraded the EHR’s performance to such an extent that it will have to be replaced.

The next trend in HIT will not be ACOs.  Instead it will be large teams of outside consultants swarming like locusts to provide disaster recovery on hundred million dollar EHRs.

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