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7/15/2009
01:00 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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If It's Patients Vs. IT Industry, IT Industry Will Lose Every Time

In The Perfect World, we'd all have electronic health records that are complete, portable, and secure. But here in the real and imperfect world, the government's aggressive injection of itself into an already bewildering situation is pitting patients versus the IT industry. Or as the headline over an excellent news story asks, "Who really profits from digital medical records?"

In The Perfect World, we'd all have electronic health records that are complete, portable, and secure. But here in the real and imperfect world, the government's aggressive injection of itself into an already bewildering situation is pitting patients versus the IT industry. Or as the headline over an excellent news story asks, "Who really profits from digital medical records?"The article wastes no time in framing that question as a battle involving on one side patients and the soaring costs they face, and on the other side the technology industry that is understandably eager to chase the $45 billion that the federal government is waving in its face. Here's the very first sentence from a very strong piece in Dallasnews.com:

"An unprecedented effort to computerize the nation's hospitals and physician offices could be the key to reducing crippling health care costs - or a giveaway to technology vendors whose sales will be subsidized by taxpayers."

The article also does a nice job of explaining the tensions arising between the position taken by a commission set up by health-care industry group that is setting standards and certifications that IT vendors must meet, and the revisions to those standards and certifications that have been made by the federal government as part of its effort to use the $45 billion in promised funding to radically reshape the health care industry in this country.

If one thing is clear in this massively complex undertaking that's got more splinter groups and factions than is, well, healthy, it's that the IT industry that has the potential and the capability to do so much good in the realm of health care stands to lose an enormous opportunity if it creates the impression that in its understandable aggressiveness to capture new revenue, it is overlooking what is truly the ultimate objective: the health and well-being of patients.

It will be very easy for IT companies to get caught up in the supply-side mumbo-jumbo of certification arcana and interoperability standards and which flavor of Linux who likes best and inside-baseball terms like 802.11g, especially when the $45 billion the federal government is currently waving around will surely double or triple in the next few years.

But smart companies will see that the real winners will be those companies that can express their goals and aspirations in terms based around the demand-side issue of people - individuals with names and families and jobs and real concerns - who, after all, are what this entire debate is really all about.

Look at that headline again: "Who really profits from digital medical records?", and think very hard about whether that's a game you can win. Because I'll bet heavily that companies that allow the debate to be framed as them against patients will come up losers every single time.

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