Pollyanna statements about healthcare IT such as the following are still appearing, and are growing increasingly tiresome.  They are, at best, demonstrations of people with a fiduciary duty to have known better making fools of themselves.

Pollyanna: someone who thinks good things will always happen and finds something good in everything (Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pollyanna)


... Before ARRA, most surveys concluded that cost was the No. 1 barrier to EHR adoption. But as soon as it appeared that the cost barrier might finally be overcome, individuals with a deeper-seated "anti-EHR" bent emerged. Their numbers are small, but their shocking claims -- that EHRs kill people, that massive privacy violations are taking place, that shady conspiracies are operating -- make stimulating copy for the media. Those experienced with EHRs might laugh these stories off, but risk-averse newcomers to health IT, both health care providers and policymakers are easily affected by fear mongering.  (Mark Leavitt, former head CCHIT, http://www.ihealthbeat.org/perspectives/2009/health-it-under-arra-its-not-the-money-its-the-message.aspx)

"The [ONC] committee [investigating FDA reports of HIT endangement] said that nothing it had found would give them any pause that a policy of introducing EMR's [rapidly and on a national scale - ed.] could impede patient safety."  (David Blumenthal, former head of ONC at HHS, http://www.massdevice.com/news/blumenthal-evidence-adverse-events-with-emrs-anecdotal-and-fragmented)


"We don't think there's a great deal of data to substantiate that there are major safety problems with the majority of electronic health records systems in use today," said Charlie Jarvis, executive committee vice chair of the EHR Assn., a trade group that represents 46 organizations that supply most of the EMR systems implemented in medical practices. "These products are safe, dependable, time-tested and display a lot of the safety features we think are necessary to prevent problems going forward." (Charles Jarvis, erstwhile NextGen VP and holder of prestigious (and mysterious) "American Medical Informatics Certification for Health Information Technology", http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2011/11/two-opposing-views-of-ehr-1.html)

The most recent example highlighted on this blog is:

As Minnesota’s health commissioner, I work to improve the health of all Minnesotans. As a physician, I’m dedicated to providing the best care possible to patients. Secure electronic health records help achieve both goals by enhancing the safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of our health care system. With that in mind, I have been concerned to see some recent pushback on Minnesota’s requirement that all health care providers use electronic health records (EHR) by 2015 ... All Minnesota patients, whether they visit a small clinic, need mental health treatment, or receive care from multiple providers, stand to benefit from EHRs and the improved care coordination they make possible. (Minnesota's Heath Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger, http://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2015/04/electronic-health-records-advance-quality-care-all-minnesotans.)

Here is the tragic reality.

Recommended for reading, and for feeding to the press and to our elected officials:

Primer on health IT realities in 2015:


(1)  "Five biases of new technologies", Trisha Greenhalgh.  Br J Gen Pract. 2013 Aug; 63(613): 425

The most dangerous of these biases is the "subjunctivisation bias".  It results in clinical disruption, mishaps, injury and death:

Subjunctivisation bias: Much of the policy rhetoric on new technologies rests not on what they have been shown to achieve in practice but on optimistic guesses about what they would, could, or may achieve if their ongoing development goes as planned; if the technologies are implemented as intended; and in the absence of technical, regulatory or operational barriers.4 This is what Dourish and Bell call the ‘proximate future’: a time, just around the corner, of ‘calm computing’ when all technologies will be plug-and-play and glitch-free.

(I point out a related bias - that of the hyper-enthusiastic technophile who either deliberately ignores or is blinded to technology's downsides, ethical issues, and repeated local and mass failures.  See http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2012/03/doctors-and-ehrs-reframing-modernists-v.html.)

(2)  ECRI Institute Deep Dive Study on Health IT risks (2012)

171 IT mishaps sufficient to cause harm reported voluntarily by 36 hospitals in 9 weeks; 8 injuries; mishaps likely contributed to 3 deaths as well.  Projected to a nationwide annual figure, the result is likely many thousands of times greater (see http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2013/02/peering-underneath-icebergs-water-level.html).

(3)  Letter to ONC from 37 Medical Societies (January 2015)      

This letter speaks for itself on exceptionally well-justified clinician dissatisfaction and alarm at the risks and disruptions posed by this technology in its current form and with present roles (e.g., the experimental use of clinicians as cheap data entry clerks).
(4)  Joint Commission Sentinel Events Alert on Health IT (March 2015)   

Late, but better than never.  Most of what's in this alert has appeared on this blog since 2004.   Footnote 1 (ECRI Institute PSO Deep Dive, the report linked above) is somewhat bizarrely used as a justification of the statement "EHRs have demonstrated the ability to reduce adverse events."  I do also note at the linked http://www.jointcommission.org/safe_health_it.aspx these statements:

  • Poorly designed or implemented health IT can contribute to patient harm
  • Health IT-related patient safety events can go undetected
  • As health IT adoption becomes more widespread, the potential for health IT-related patient harm may increase
These could have come directly from my writings dating back over a decade here.  (Perhaps they did.)

(5)  Accenture - Fewer U.S. Doctors Believe It Improves Health Outcomes (April 2015)                    

This survey also speaks for itself.  A less formal nurses' survey is here:  http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2013/07/candid-nurse-opinions-on-ehrs-at.html

(6)  U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
FOIA response:  "We do not have any information that supports or refutes claims that a broader adoption of EHRs can save lives."  (But let us spend hundreds of billions of dollars and put patients at risk to find out...)

CMS: "we do not have any information that supports or refutes claims that a broader adoption of EHRs can save lives.  [Click to enlarge.]

In conclusion:

Next time you encounter pollyanna/head-in-the-sand statements about health IT that ignore the risks, throw this primer the way of the authors and audience of such statements.

-- SS

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