It's your job to educate the public about health IT

Oh, how it bugs me to no end when mainstream publications misinform the public about health IT. I'm particularly wary of the "Inside the Beltway" and Silicon Valley crowds, where an inflated sense of self-importance is chronic. (For the record, FierceMarkets, publisher of this newsletter, is based in downtown Washington, D.C., but I'm not. Besides, we're trade press. We're supposed to know specialized topics better than most.)

I call your attention to a story that appeared in Politico last week. It begins, "Electronic health records are often discussed as a panacea in health policy, with the potential to streamline record keeping, reduce costs and improve quality of care in one fell swoop."

I think you know where I'm going with this one.

Speak up if you or anyone else in your organization believes that EHRs--or any form of health IT--are a panacea for anything. I'll sit back and listen to the crickets chirping.

Yeah, that's usually the first misconception that health IT people clear up when discussing what they do. Health IT is a tool to help improve documentation, quality of care, communication and efficiency. It's certainly no panacea.

So here's an assignment for all the CIOs, CMIOs, vendor executives and consultants out there: The next time a reporter from a non-healthcare publication calls, take some time to educate him or her about the broad themes of health IT. (Warning: shameless self-promotion ahead.) Direct them to a story I wrote for the Reporting on Health project at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication that provides tips on covering EHRs.

Unfortunately, the Politico reporter, in typical Inside-the-Beltway fashion, didn't bother to talk to anybody other than policymakers and lobbyists. Otherwise, she'd know that EHRs are a panacea for nothing.

None of us need extra responsibilities these days, but understand that it's your job as well as mine to clear up the many misconceptions the public has about health IT. The success of your work is depending on it. - Neil