Really? It seems like that is incredibly backward thinking which was also likely used against the stethoscope, anti-sepsis, penicillin, cars, planes, TVs, computers and the Internet when they first started out. I get it, change is hard and technical progress is slow - but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, let's give it a chance to grow up! And, of course, what is even more interesting is that like so many media cycles, the media happily built up how great healthcare IT would be, and then gladly tear it down when it does not happen right away.
Glen Tullman (HIT entrepreneur and former Allscripts CEO) had some great thoughts on this issue in a recent Forbes Editorial he wrote Why Haven't Electronic Health Records Made Us Healthier? He essentially said that we are a lot further along than when we started, but certainly still have far to go. I especially liked that he reminded us of Amara’s Law: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”
SIDE NOTE: I did a little research to find out that Roy Amara was a Stanford Systems Engineering PhD who was President of the Institute for the Future. I also found that his law was one of Four Geeky Laws that Rule Our World, the four together are:
- Amara's Law: "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run."
- Brooks' Law: "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later."
- Thackara's Laws: "If you put smart technology into a pointless product, the result will be a stupid product."
- Reed's Law: "The Value of a Network Increases Dramatically When People Form Subgroups for Collaborations and Sharing."
So I wrote a little reply to the NY Times article as well and the wonderful folks at HISTalk published my piece at: http://histalk2.com/2013/02/21/the-hit-productivity-paradox-its-gonna-be-ok/
I actually received a lot of positive feedback on this - so here it is:
Well, it turns out that some smart authors actually addressed this exact issue in a June, 2012 NEJM article entitled: Unraveling the IT Productivity Paradox — Lessons for Health Care. In this article, they explain that sure, we are seeing problems with HIT… but it is as expected - just like every other new industry has to evolve. They conclude with the following paragraph:
The resolution of the original IT productivity paradox suggests that current conclusions about the value of health IT investments may be premature. Research suggests three lessons for physicians and health care leaders: invest in creating new measures of productivity that can reveal the quality and cost gains that arise from health IT, avoid impatience or overly optimistic expectations about return on investment and focus on the delivery reengineering needed to create a productivity payoff, and pay greater attention to measuring and improving IT usability. In the meantime, avoiding broad claims about overall value that are based on limited evidence may permit a clearer focus on the best ways of optimizing IT's use in health care.
Clearly we are not at perfection - HIT can affect efficiency and quality in both good ways and bad. But rather than try to create some artificial polarization that it is all good or all bad… let's continue doing our job (for the medical informatics professionals reading this) to keep making HIT better serve our providers and patients, while educating those who get freaked out every time a new stat or story comes out pointing out its imperfection.