Ex-ONC head David Blumenthal on health IT: 'No going back'

Providers' tendency to blame their electronic health records for problems, as most lately exhibited by Texas Health Resource's initial announcement blaming its EHR system for the misdiagnosis of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, are "understandable but not wholly justifiable," according to David Blumenthal, former National Coordinator for Health IT and current president of the Commonwealth Fund.

In a recent blog post on the Commonwealth Fund's website, Blumenthal suggests that EHRs are the "new lightning rod" in healthcare and tempting to use as a scapegoat because they are imperfect and reflect "profound underlying dysfunctions in our healthcare system." 

However, Blumenthal suggests that it's not the EHR that's making people unhappy, but rather "deep crises" in the industry.   

"High costs, deficiencies in quality, and profound disparities in the care available to people of different income levels, races, and ethnicities. These problems have led to  reforms that are profoundly disruptive to providers, threatening the bottom lines of hospitals and the cherished autonomy of physicians," Blumenthal says. "The pressures on physicians and hospitals go by many names: pay-for-performance, risk-sharing, reduced Medicare payments for high-cost procedures, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, hospital purchases of physician practices, and more."

Noting that "there's no going back in the electronic health information revolution," Blumenthal suggests that the systems will be viewed more positively as EHRs improve and younger clinicians more comfortable with technology become more dominant in the industry.

Other studies have shown that although EHRs can create workflow issues and increase dissatisfaction, they have shown their worth in areas such as improving patient care, providing remote access to records and enhanced research.

To learn more:
- here's the blog post