Brian Eastwood has created a really great article on CIO.com that looks at why Healthcare IT is under fire. His finally couple paragraphs summarize the current challenge for government healthcare IT initiatives:
ONC – as well as HHS at large – admittedly finds itself between Scylla and Charybdis. Too much regulation (medical devices) can do just as much harm as too little regulation (interoperability). Moving too quickly (meaningful use) can cause as much frustration as moving too slowly (telehealth). Politics can explain some industry challenges (reform’s uncertain future) but not others (public perception of Healthcare.gov).
That said, healthcare wants to change. Healthcare has to change. As healthcare continues its rapid, unprecedented march toward modernity, industry leaders have every right to expect – no, demand – a strong, confident voice in their corner. Right now, ONC can barely muster a whisper when, instead, it should be shouting.
I don’t think I’ve seen a better concise summary of the challenges that ONC, CMS, FDA, etc face. This shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for these organizations. We all face challenges in our job and we have to learn to balance them all. The same is true for organizations like ONC.
What makes this challenge even harder for ONC is that they’re in the midst of a massive change in leadership. Not to mention a leader, Karen DeSalvo, who at best has her time split between important issues like Ebola and her work as National Coordinator over healthcare IT. Considering DeSalvo’s passion for public health, you can guess where she’s going to spend most of her time.
In some ways it reminds me of when I started my first healthcare IT blog: EMR and HIPAA. As I started blogging, I realized that I had a real passion for writing about EMR. The same could not be said for HIPAA. Despite it’s name, I was spending most of my time writing about EMR and only covering HIPAA when breaches or other major changes happened. I imagine that DeSalvo will take a similar path.
Without a dedicated leader, I don’t see any way that Brian Eastwood’s vision of ONC shouting with confidence becoming a reality. A bifurcated leader won’t likely be able to muster more than the current whisper. It’s no wonder that CHIME, HIMSS and other major organizations are asking for DeSalvo to be full time at ONC or for her to be replaced with someone who can be dedicated full time to ONC.
What should be clear to us all is that healthcare IT isn’t going anywhere. Technology is going to be a major part of healthcare going forward. Why the government wouldn’t want to make a sound investment with strong leadership is beyond me.