EHR Innovation Gap Threatens Healthcare Progress

Nicole Lewis | InformationWeek | June 19, 2012

EHRs remain stuck in the pre-Internet age and dominated by entrenched vendors, according to recent New England Journal of Medicine commentary.

Electronic health records suffer from a lack of innovation that thwarts physicians' attempts to advance healthcare processes and workflow. Unlike word-processing programs, search engines, social networks, and mobile phones and apps, EHRs are stuck in the pre-Internet world where EHR vendors not only control the data, but also resist improvements to functionality while reaping huge financial rewards, concludes a commentary that appears in the June 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Penned by Kenneth Mandl and Isaac Kohane, both professors at Harvard Medical School, "Escaping the EHR Trap – The Future of Health IT", says EHR vendors insist that the healthcare industry is so unique that data collection, the sharing of health information, and many other tasks associated with healthcare workflow require a highly specialized set of tools. This myth, the authors say, has led to EHR vendors declaring that only they can develop health IT to meet the current demands of the healthcare system--a notion with which the authors sharply disagree.

"We believe that EHR vendors propagate the myth that health IT is qualitatively different from industrial and consumer products in order to protect their prices and market share and block new entrants," the article states. In a joint interview with both authors, Kohane further explained that: "Leading companies like EPIC will claim that it's unsafe for health IT to be done outside their monolithic system and that their monolithic system is actually enabling patient safety and the correct conduct of healthcare process."...