Healthcare IT Delirium

The delirium surrounding healthcare IT seems to be worsening.

In an Aug. 2010 post "
EPIC's outrageous recommendations on healthcare IT project staffing" I wrote that health IT company Epic, one of the largest, seemed to not care about healthcare or IT education or experience in its recommendations to hospitals on staffing of safety critical projects (i.e., the implementation of safety critical clinical cybernetic devices):

Epic emphasizes that many hospitals can staff their projects internally, choosing people who know the organization. However, they emphasize choosing the best and brightest, not those with time to spare. Epic advocates the same approach it takes in its own hiring: don’t worry about relevant experience, choose people with the right traits, qualities, and skills, they say.

The guide suggests hiring recent college graduates for analyst roles. Ability is more important than experience, it says. That includes reviewing a candidate’s college GPA and standardized test scores.

Based on a presentation by the company at my university, they apparently they mean it:

Career Presentation: Epic Systems Corporation - TONIGHT

The Drexel Women in Computing Society (WiCS) will organize a career presentation by Epic Systems Corporation tonight, January 19, 2011, from 6 to 7 p.m. at University Crossings, room 149 (32nd and Market Streets).

Epic Systems Corporation, located in Madison, Wisc., creates software for the healthcare industry and is hiring for many positions. They are recognized nationally as a leader in moving healthcare organizations from paper medical records to completely electronic ones. Epic hires from all majors, all degrees and all experience levels, and requires no software experience. [Or, as is obvious from this solicitation, healthcare experience - ed.] The presentation will include an overview of Epic's industry work, corporate philosophy and role-specific expectations.

This presentation is open to all graduate and undergraduate students at Drexel University. Pizza will be provided and resumes will be accepted after the presentation.

Other health IT merchants will probably soon follow suit.

As I also wrote at the aforementioned post:

Medical environments and clinical affairs are not playgrounds for novices, no matter how "smart" their grades and test scores show them to be, and these practices as described, in my view, represent faulty and dangerous advice.

The advice also is at odds with the taxonomy of skills published by the Office of the National Coordinator I outlined at the post "ONC Defines a Taxonomy of Robust Healthcare IT Leadership."

This talent management ideology is also alien to medicine (at least since the Flexner Report of 1910), and at odds with critical thinking and common sense.

Then there's this, an attempt by Medical Informatics researchers of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) to
ex post facto put a scientific veneer on the troublesome and extremely costly "Meaningful Use of health IT" criteria mandated by the US Government. Those criteria were largely arrived at through "off-the-top-of-their heads" committee meetings (see "Meaningful Use and the Devil in the Details: A Reader's View" on this blog and "The MU Hearings: DrLyle Goes to Washington 1/18/11" at the HIStalk site):

On behalf of the CISWG Leadership Team [AMIA Clinical Information Systems work group - ed.]

In light of the HITECH Act and subsequent Meaningful Use objectives, it is imperative for the informatics community to consider the current science behind clinical information systems and to identify areas requiring further research. In keeping with this, the CISWG leadership is interested in developing a white paper, “The Science Behind the Meaningful Use Criteria”.

The purpose of this paper will be to synthesize the existing literature regarding each of the meaningful use criteria and develop recommendations for future research. We are requesting your assistance in this work.

We ask you, as experts in the field, to help identify current literature and subject matter experts for EACH of the meaningful use criteria. In addition, please state if you (1) believe there is evidence for the objective, and (2) if the evidence is supporting of the objective. Please do not delete other’s input but rather add your comments directly to the document (even if in conflict with others).

The document should result in a great asynchronous discussion. Please provide your input by the 7th of February. We appreciate any input you are able to provide. Thank you for your assistance and we look forward to sharing the results of this work in the future

My contribution will probably be that it's probably better to examine the science in a domain before putting it into national policy, not after ...

I'd also observed at "Meaningful Use Final Rule: Have the Administration and ONC Put the Cart Before the Horse on Health IT?" and at the followup post "Cart before the horse, again: IOM to study HIT patient safety for ONC" that a focus on "meaningful use" before a focus on health IT "meaningful usability" and health IT safety was putting the cart before the horse.

Recklessly so, in fact.

How not to do health IT: by putting the cart before the horse on usability and safety

Finally, in light of the recent experiences of a medical informatics-skilled hospitalist as I posted at "
An MD hospitalist on EHR's: I might have inadvertently skipped something during the mayhem" ...

[The NY Times article on information overload in the military causing deaths] was eerily similar to / descriptive of my experience last night in the hospital: processing multiple information sources related to multiple different problems for a new admission (patient, family, ED staff, disjointed EMR - some documents in the Documents tab of the [major EHR vendor name redacted - ed.] system but most others in the hospital system Portal requiring a separate lookup, some radiology studies available through the EMR on any workstation but others requiring accessing the PACS system directly on scarcer dedicated workstations - plus paper record components, including EKGs, progress notes) ... all while various drone-equivalents are channeling information regarding multiple other admissions in the wings and/or patients decompensating on the floors or in the ICU.

Oh yeah, and then there's the "12 hour shift" thing. Oops, gotta run... Just slept all day after my night shift and have to head back to hospital for the next one. Still haven't submitted any charge tickets, btw, even for last week's shifts (I'm carrying around paper face sheets with scribbled notes on the back; I'm supposed to fax them to the billing office once I figure out what CPT / visit intensity code I want to use.)

Gosh, I hope I remembered to touch on 10 bullet points related to ten organ systems for my ROS for each of my admissions; might have inadvertently skipped something during the mayhem...

PS. I'd love to be wearing one of those brain wave contraptions mentioned in the article to see what my theta wave activity was.

... and the injury of my relative in 2010 due to interference of healthcare IT in clinician-clinician communications (including, but not limited to, me communicating with those caring for my relative, and them communicating among themselves and with the technology itself), all I can say is:

The field of health IT has become delirious.

On top of an irrational exuberance (see this blog query) largely unsupported by the literature (e.g. here), the technology is experimental, its rollout is a grand national experiment in social re-engineering of medicine, there is no patient informed consent, nobody is in control, and nobody is taking responsibility for regulating the domain despite known risks. The results will very likely reflect the Wild West free-for-all that is now extant.

This is crazy stuff.

Running off the rails. We seem to be going out of our way looking for this with HIT, sending it out full speed ahead on far too short a track ...

There's very little else I can do about it at this point, having tried writing, speaking, and political venues.

This will affect your healthcare, not just mine (at least I know what to look out for).

I suggest litigators stay closely attuned to hospital morbidity and mortality incidence (and incidents).

-- SS