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Monday, July 02, 2007

CEO Awards

Health care executives are under a great deal of pressure these days to make more use of computers; i.e., information technology, or IT. That creates the risk that IT will be implemented mainly for its own sake rather than for the purpose of improving the performance of the health care provider system.

In its June 25, 2007 issue, the Modern Healthcare magazine announced its 2007 CEO IT Achievement Awards, which it bestowed in cooperation with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

In a companion article, David Burda, editor of the magazine, invited comments. I accepted his invitation and sent him the following e-mail:

“The report of the 5th Annual CEO IT Achievement Awards was interesting but would have been even more so had it indicated what had been achieved through the use of IT.

For example:

Alan Aviles of New York City Health and Hospitals gets credit for “smart cards” that can accommodate an individual’s medical records, including primary diagnoses, laboratory results and even an electrocardiogram. One wonders to what extent they are proving useful and what the impact has been on cost and quality.

John Ferguson of Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center is recognized for implementing “Mr. Rounders;” robots that let doctors interface with their patients from remote locations. The award citation does not report any statistics that indicate benefits realized.

Michael Murphy of Sharp HealthCare in San Diego is complimented for his support of “a difficult decision to deploy a single-product, inpatient electronic medical record.” Previously, different programs had been used for different applications and it turned out they couldn’t be made compatible with each other. As a result, nurses “had to toggle between the systems.” Surely there were some benefits from the expensive redo other than relieving nurses of that inconvenience. If so, the citation doesn’t mention them or indicate whether they were realized.

IT will pay off through the implementation of new and better ways of providing care that would not be possible without it. Short of that, the main result will be to add cost. It is tempting to conclude that this is what has happened under the leadership of your awardees.”

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