HITECH and Funding Cuts: The Battle Begins

At "US House of Representatives Proposes to Defund Largest Non-Consented Medical Experiment in U.S. History: HITECH" I predicted this:

... I have no financial conflicts of interest regarding HITECH or health IT to weep about. Others do, and it's not hard to predict their financial interests will push them to oppose repeal "by any means necessary."

The next few months should be an interesting time in the politics of healthcare IT.

A replacement HITECH act that's "HI" on research and caution, but not so "HIGH" on stealth, coercion and euphoria (i.e., as on mind altering substances) would be welcomed.

The battle's already begun. At "Meaningful Use incentives jeopardized by GOP bill", Jan. 28, 2011 by at Dan Bowman at FierceHealthIT.com, views exactly as I expected have begun being proffered by the industry:

... All of that [possibility of HITECH funding termination] has HIMSS Vice President for government relations Dave Roberts just a little on edge, reports Healthcare IT News.

"We're trying to tell people that this process is going on. This is only one body [of Congress]. Don't let this be a concern," he said. But "if this is a new way of thinking, that could be concerning. So I think that while this particular bill may not pass, it's something that has to be watched closely."

Patti Dodgren, CEO of Hielix--which helps to facilitate electronic health information exchanges across the U.S., shares Roberts' view. [Any possible conflicts of interest towards full-speed-ahead-damn-the-torpedoes health IT diffusion in that role, I ask? - ed.]

"Just the suggestion of repealing HITECH stimulus funds for physicians...is short-sighted at best, and threatens the very progress that is already beginning to be realized within the industry to move our healthcare system into the 20th [yes, 20th] Century," Dodgren told FierceHealthIT. "All this bill serves to do is strengthen the cynics of health IT.

[Translation: "short sighted" and "cynic" = those more interested in taking the time to do health IT "right" and in patient rights and patient well being, than in personal gain - ed.]

We work with thousands of physicians and state government healthcare officials who have worked tirelessly over the past months to achieve the benefits that healthcare IT promises [no, Ms. Dodgren, they haven't, actually; you and they have merely encouraged a rushed, cavalier and reckless rollout (of a technology even HIMSS' former Chairman of the Board, a physician, admitted is not ready), damaging - not helping - health IT's prospects. See below - ed.], and this bill is a disservice to them and to the healthcare industry."

It may be a "disservice" to those who stand to profit from the health IT industry, but it's a great service to the healthcare industry and to the patients it serves.

I didn't really need to look, as experience at HC Renewal has proven time and again about the healthcare pundits, but the credentials of someone making such claims about health IT are not impressive IMO.

From an online bio, Ms. Dodgren holds the illustrious "CPHIMS" certification that I wrote about at my April 2008 post "Is the HIMSS Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems stamp substantive, or just alphabet soup?". After 8 years as Director Budgeting & Financial Systems at (now-defunct) Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) and 4 years as Senior Business Analyst at Dun & Bradstreet, she has been a "change management professional" for twenty years who "co-founded a management consulting practice which specializes in the application of change management principles to health information technology." I note no medical (or medical informatics) training or experience.

My reply to these people is as follows, as posted in a FierceHealthIT comment:


... We’re still learning, in healthcare, about that user interface. We’re still learning about how to put the applications together in a clinical workflow that’s going to be valuable to the patients and to the people who are providing care. Let’s be patient. Let’s give them a chance to figure out the right way to do this. Let’s give the application providers an opportunity to make this better.

Let the industry learn the responsible way, not on patients' and physicians' blood, sweat and tears through way-too-early national initiatives that will only add to the $14 trillion national debt (http://www.usdebtclock.org/), and throw some of the money into industry pockets.

Franky, as a physician with no financial conflict-of-interest axes to grind, I am increasingly disgusted with the cavalier, money-grubbing attitudes of the health IT industry and its pundits. Their attitudes and behaviors represent a poster study of healthcare industry at its worst.

This latter fact is not lost on me as I speak with government representatives seeking to improve medical drug/device watchdog legislation, and to attorneys looking to protect patients from harm or gain recompense for those already injured as a result of faulty IT.

-- SS