'The automated mess'–Harvard study on hospital IT

‘When you automate a mess, you get an automated mess’ (Joe McKendrick, SmartPlanet.com)

Ever wonder why after the IT people rework a process, whatever you’re doing (or it’s supposed to be doing) gets longer and more complicated?  A newly published Harvard Medical School study on the effect of health information technology (HIT) on hospital processes, at 4000 ‘most wired hospitals’ as determined by HIMSS, will give you some ideas.  It found that the cost expenditure far outweighed any savings, and had only a modest effect on quality and productivity.  The lead author of the study, David U. Himmelstein, M.D., in a Network World interview, states bluntly that the systems are largely written for the accountants and administrators, and not built to help doctors, nurses and patients.  Doctors spend time inputting data, not caring for patients.

Why this matters to us in telecare, telehealth and eHealth? We are producers of an additional torrent–soon to be tidal wave–of data, which is going to flood into, and perhaps break, this system.  Mr. McKendrick in his SmartPlanet.com article reminds us that we need to clean up our underlying processes and deal with these issues before we lay on the systems. (Read this article AND the excellent comments)

American Journal of Medicine; Himmelstein, Wright, Woolhandler: Hospital Computing and the Costs and Quality of Care: A National Study