Under the federal government's direction, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology has been given the task of promoting information technology within the healthcare industry. Approximately half of CCHIT's board of directors work for medical insurance companies or commercial medical informatic companies, or are physicians employed by very large group practices or electronic health-record companies. As a result, CCHIT's priorities have been tailored to reflect the interests of its board, rather than the needs of the physicians and the health interests of our society at large.
CCHIT is now attempting to coerce physicians to purchase specific, expensive and "CCHIT-certified" EHR systems, which are designed to collect medical information. This information is "quantified"thereby creating a huge repository of all U.S. healthcare interactions. As 16% of the U.S. gross domestic product is spent on healthcare, the amount of information that will be stored in these databases is massive and will eventually be available (for sale) to third parties. One can logically conclude that organizations with access to this information will be able to exert a huge influence on the future of U.S. healthcare.
There are now several hundred non-CCHIT-certified EHRs on the market which provide low-cost and innovative solutions that are not otherwise available to physicians. If CCHIT's influence remains unchecked, many small EHR companies will be forced out of business. The end result will be extremely disruptive to small medical practices, forcing them to adopt expensive and bloated software while creating a frighteningly comprehensive healthcare database.
As a practicing physician who also has more than 15 years experience incorporating IT into small medical practices, I am in a unique position to understand the needs of the healthcare community and the potential of health IT. I am a firm believer that the appropriate use of health IT can improve the quality of healthcare. However, it is my opinion that the federal government needs to force CCHIT to alter its priorities so that they mirror the needs of the medical community majority, rather than the interests of CCHIT's board of directors and their representative companies. This can only be accomplished by replacing CCHIT's board, whose members have a financial interest in the health IT industry, with people who have no financial connection to the medical/health IT/pharmaceutical industrial complex.
In President Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address, he said "We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence ... by the military-industrial complex. ... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery ... so that ... liberty may prosper." The size of the U.S. medical/health IT/pharmaceutical industry now rivals the size of its military-industrial complex and the parallel between the two industries is too obvious to be discounted. If we choose to ignore this historical precedent, then the future of healthcare in the U.S. will be controlled by several powerful industries, whose priorities do not necessarily parallel the health interests of our society. And once these industries take control of the health industry, their political influence will ensure that they will remain in control for many decades into the future.
Hayward Zwerling, M.D.President ComChart Medical Software Lowell, Mass.click here. Please include your name, title, company and hometown. Health IT Strategist reserves the right to edit all submissions.
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