Does Meaningful Use Destroy Doctors’ Skills?

About two weeks ago, I saw a patient who was referred for a new diagnosis of hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels).  I ran a few additional appropriate lab tests and will be seeing him back this week or next.  This weekend, however, I had some spare time to read back through the sections of two medical textbooks dealing with a more detailed discussion of this issue.

How apropos, I thought, when reading a recent post on the Health Care Blog, titled The Destructiveness of Measures.  This post says such a powerful amount in such a short blog span, that I needed to highlight and share it.  It succinctly describes what the government is currently trying to do to a highly trained labor force who’s best asset is their ability to think about patients with complex medical problems.  Every minute spent filling out online forms to report meaningful use data to the government could be better spent in reviewing and updating their medical knowledge set.  Both tasks focus on patient’s and their medical problems, yet one is a much higher yield for patient care and physicians’ sharpness in providing higher quality care than the other, which could be completed by a person with a high school education.

Let’s not dumb down our physician’s knowledge levels by asking them to complete such inane tasks as generating Meaningful Use data sets.  Are the physicians the right personnel for such a clerical job?  Absolutely not.  Airline pilots can’t maintain their flying skills by running the beverage cart.  Doctors are no different.

About the author

Dr. Michael West

Dr. Michael West

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at


  • I have never seen MU as something that could degrade the skills of a provider. I used t be a provider and now I assist others and recommend that they get MU and MU related training for themselves and the stimulus. I admit with the MU approach that a provider cannot make the Shakesperian novels that they seem to like to write in patients notes and it’s not as impersonal, but it achieves the purpose. It enhances skills not degrades, it’s that old enemy CHANGE coming into play.

  • Lorenzo,

    MU is a distractor from the focus that doctors should be placing on their patients and doing better at keeping up with the latest, most cutting-edge medical knowledge. I, for one, have more time to spend in such pursuits since I don’t participate in the MU data collection and submission process. At the same time, I wish the best of luck to the doctors who are choosing to participate in MU.

  • Meaningful Use is actually destroying healthcare. This isn’t about doctors or their skill-set. This is about making the ‘chasing of money’ more important than patient health. In every instance I have seen providers chasing Meaningful Use money has caused a sacrifice in patient care.

  • Excellent comment Matila, and I completely agree. It creates tons more busywork and distracts the provider from paying as much attention to why the patient is actually being seen.

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