Former ONC Director David Blumenthal (Inadvertently?) Honest About EHRs in USA Today Story

USA Today has published a story on health IT difficulties.  Read it in its entirety; it is fairly balanced, though mild, e.g., it omits mention of the ECRI Deep Dive study on patient harms ( and other actual reports of patient harm.  (I was one of many who spoke to the reporters about this story.) 

Feds move into digital medicine, face doctor backlash
Laura Ungar and Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY
Feb. 1, 2015

I am only going to make one point about it, that being the candor (in a manner I'm reasonably certain was not intended) of former ONC Director Dr. David Blumenthal:

... David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology for President Obama from 2009 to 2011, says, "the threat of penalties is the only incentive (doctors) have to make it [the adoption of healthcare IT] happen."

I don't think the candor was meant in the way I am about to interpret it, but I agree with his assessment.

The threat of Medicare penalties is indeed "the only incentive" (doctors) have to make "it" happen, because the technology is not helping them, and is making their work harder and more risk- and liability-prone.  But don't take that from just me:

... A group of 37 medical societies led by the American Medical Association sent a letter to Health and Human Services last month saying the certification program is headed in the wrong direction, and that today's electronic records systems are cumbersome, decrease efficiency and, most importantly, can present safety problems for patients. 

I covered that Jan. 21, 2015 letter at

(One can only imagine the level and duration of physician complaints it took for those 37 medical societies led by the American Medical Association to have crafted the letter to HHS/ONC, available at

Also, as stated by the American Medical Association's president-elect to USA Today:

"Physicians passionately despise their electronic health records," says Lexington, Ky., emergency physician Steven Stack, the American Medical Association's president-elect. "We use technology quickly when it works … Electronic health records don't work right now."

"Passionately despise" is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

So, in effect,  the "stick" of financial penalties is indeed the "only incentive" doctors and nurses have right now for broad adoption, because the "carrot" is moldy and rotten - and despised with a passion.

A much better incentive - in fact, the only legitimate incentive for widespread adoption - is safe, sound, efficacious products, reasonably regulated, with defects and problems reasonably reported and acted upon ... in other words, with the products subject to the same scrutiny as IT in other mission and life-critical sectors.

Thanks for 'fessing up, Dr. Blumenthal.

-- SS