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EHR Innovation: Breaking News From Disparate Poles

by Dan Haley, SVP and General Counsel

In a recent post, I suggested that industry reaction to the Meaningful Use Stage 2 final rules underscored the “increasing bifurcation (and polarization) in the EHR universe.” On one side there are the health information technology (HIT) innovators pushing for higher standards and more aggressive implementation timelines. On the other sit the technological laggards who ask incessantly for a slower pace and lower standards.

News emanating from National HIT week in early September took that underscore and added bold font, highlighting, and italics.

In his opening remarks to the ONC’s Consumer Health IT Summit, Dr. Farzad Mostashari commented on his office’s – and by extension the government’s – role in the area of consumer e-health, characterizing that role as “supportive” of the private sector HIT community, “of convening, making sure that we have policies that help unleash and unlock the activities of the community.”  That theme, the notion that government’s job when it comes to HIT is to encourage and foster innovation, was music to our ears at athenahealth. Why?  We believe to our core that technological innovation in how we collect, exchange and leverage information holds the key to enabling our health care system to finally work the way it should.

To encourage and foster innovation, we believe that the government should continually press the private sector to lean forward, to meet higher standards and to do so as quickly as the pacesetters at the front edge of the innovation curve are able.

If You Can’t Keep Up, Slow Down?

Apparently not everyone at HIT week got the message.

In a blog post summarizing the events of HIT week, a major player in the electronic health record space (whose name rhymes with “Tall Ships”) asked the question, “Time to Hit the Pause Button on Meaningful Use?” and noted, “[o]ne of the common themes in all the comments at the summit was the need for a pause to allow everyone – vendors, clinicians, and other health care entities – to consolidate the efforts of Meaningful Use.”  Bear in mind that this call for a pause came weeks after the announcement of a one year delay in MU2.

What’s worse, the blogger characterized that “common theme” as “a strong close to the summit,” and noted that “the organizers said the [sic] intend to deliver [that message] to the decision makers within the government.”

So that’s what we’re getting from the far pole, from the technological laggards whose software-based services are simply unable to keep up with the fast pace of innovation in HIT and whose most important business imperative is systemic deceleration.

Or Go to the Edge and Keep Pushing

Meanwhile, at the near pole, this week athenahealth hosted its second annual “More Disruption Please” conference, bringing together dozens of HIT entrepreneurs and offering them the chance to pitch their ideas about disruptive HIT innovation for the opportunity to access the company’s vast provider network. Forbes called the conference “[a] great way to help start-ups.” We call it a great way to stay on the cutting edge of innovation.

Sure, Newton might never have been bonked in the head by that apple if he hadn’t decided to cool his heels in the shade of an apple tree, but only rarely does true progress emanate from the sedentary. That is why we host More Disruption Please. That is why we opposed the delay in MU2.

And that is why we will now rededicate ourselves to making sure that the decision makers within the government know that HIT innovators do not need or want another pause--but we welcome those “policies that help unleash and unlock the activities of the community” that Dr. Mostashari mentioned.

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