“Make your optimism come true.”
  ~Author Unknown

I truly believe in the sentiment behind this advice. Unfortunately, many in the health care industry seem to focus on the negative. And, my fear is that such thinking will bring about unwanted results for many organizations.

More specifically, I am weary of the negative energy and hype surrounding the implementation and “meaningful use” of electronic health records and whether or not it is achievable in the timeframes outlined in recent guidelines. Sure, we have painstakingly waited since February 2009 for government guidance before purchasing and/or augmenting existing EHRs to ensure investments in software, technology and implementation services would actually result in EHRs that are certified (admittedly this is still not clearly defined) and capable of enabling our meaningful use of these solutions. 

But when you think about it, why have so many in the industry focused so intently on the fact that the government has dragged its feet? As it turns out--and as just about anyone could have predicted--the requirements published to date are really nothing more than common sense.  

In reality, the meaningful use final rules really don’t add up to anything that we didn’t already know.  For years (decades if some of us reveal our ages), we have known that we need to more aggressively implement EHRs--and strive to use this technology to truly improve patient care. So, in the final analysis, we really are not being mandated to do anything that we shouldn’t already have been doing. 

The choice is clear: We can focus on our limitations and sit in idle. Or, we can pioneer creative ways to get past these limitations while demanding more of our software vendors, consultants, and other support mechanisms.

If you choose to focus on the negative as many hospital leaders and physicians have, you are likely to take a “wait and see” position toward the inevitable future choices. As a result, you become a victim of HITECH government initiatives, as you sit and wait for something to happen. Certainly, comment period after comment period, many of you--our clinicians, technicians, vendors and health care leaders--have taken this position and have focused your energies on the seemingly difficult challenges that were being proposed. The variations on the theme are endless--need more time, need more money, need more definition, need better software, need more people, need easier targets and requirements. Need, need, need.

Many of my clients seized the last year to “kick the tires” in the industry--fearing their current clinical I.T. strategic plan and course were not adequate to meet the requirements as they were being outlined in early HITECH announcements. They had only to look at the initial list of requirements to detect the major holes in their current ability to meet the requirements--inability to capture basic data electronically, inability to apply clinical decision support to clinical decisions, inability to share data across the continuum of care--to come up with a plan of action. Indeed, the obvious has been the obvious for a very long time and without mandates we have continued down software and technology paths that we grumbled and complained about but without significant incentive or motivation to change--we continued down flawed paths.

But we need to concentrate on the positive. We really don’t need to hear about the limitations, the obstacles and the problems. We need to hear different stories. We need to hear from all those progressive and motivated organizations, large and small, that have accomplished what the rest of us could not accomplish--handed the same circumstances, the same poor quality and limited software, the same cash and capital limitations. Let’s hear your stories.  Let’s hear how you made lemonade and oftentimes made magic. 

In future entries to this blog, I’ll be sharing those types of stories, thoughts and methods with you and I can’t wait to hear your stories. The successful and effective use of clinical information technology is an imperative that none of us can argue against. So let’s get going--HITECH or not.

Becky Quammen is the CEO at Quammen Health Care Consultants. During her 25-year career in health I.T. she’s held senior management positions at large provider organizations and a major health care software vendor. She can be reached at becky@quammengroup.com.

 

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