Health IT Juggernaut is Stumbling

The gold rush in Health Information Technology (HIT) appears to be winding down. Mercom Capital Group, LLC, reported that venture funding in HIT dropped 35 percent in the first quarter to just $785 million. Well, no trend lasts forever. Still, I have to wonder if investors aren’t getting a little concerned about putting so much capital into a space so dominated by government.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC), which has an overly ambitious 10-year strategic plan that needs to be rolled back, has pretty much confessed that the $30 billion taxpayers’ dollars spent on Electronic Health Records (EHRs) has been wasted.

The problem is that those $30 billion were supposed to result in EHRs that could speak to each other – “interoperable”, in industry-speak. Instead, according to the report, the EHR environment is characterized by “information blocking” – that is, the opposite of sharing:

Since the enactment of the HITECH Act and subsequent legislation, the federal government has invested over $28 billion to accelerate the development and adoption of health information technology (health IT). The purpose of these efforts is to enable an interoperable learning health system……

…… evidence described in this report suggest that some persons and entities are interfering with the exchange or use of electronic health information in ways that frustrate the goals of the HITECH Act and undermine broader health care reforms.

ONC believes that information blocking is best addressed through a combination of targeted actions aimed at deterring and remedying information blocking, and broader strategies and approaches that engage the larger context in which information blocking occurs

…… in addition to the actions outlined in this report, successful strategies to prevent information blocking will likely require congressional intervention.

The first law failed, so we need a new law – and probably more taxpayers’ money! Don’t worry about the money, the so-called Medicare doc fix currently under consideration by the Senate is one way to re-up the government push for EHRs.

Meanwhile, Loren D. Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of the defense-focused Lexington Institute, despairs that the $11 billion contract that will soon be awarded to update the Department of Defense’s HIT system will be wasted. Quoting a DoD official:

……the defense department proposes to buy an “off-the-shelf” commercial product already in use by the healthcare profession and adapt it to military needs. Only two pages later, though, he concedes that, “Today, in almost every sector besides health, electronic information exchange is a common way to do business.” In other words, the department wants to modernize by tapping technology in what may be the most backward sector of the economy when it comes to information sharing.

Comments (2)

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  1. says:

    Why should this be surprising? Government could have long ago provided the foundation for development of EHR IT language but has instead, allowed a cottage industry to flourish which relies upon proprietorship. It’s a win win for big business and government where complexity means more lobbying and campaign monies to politicians and more government employment and spending to legislate and “oversee” health IT. Nobody really wants to streamline and encourage efficiencies if it means less money in the system overall.

    • Thank you. I think you are quite right. I have lost count of how many presentations I have been to here in DC about how things are changing. J.D. Kleinke once wrote about U.S. health care being the only industry not to obey that old banality about the only constant being change. In U.S. health care, the only constant is talking about change that never comes about.