EMR and HIPAA is a great blog about health IT technology – well written, thoughtful, with personality. But I disagreed today with a post about the huge HIMSS conference (Health Information Management Systems Society) that ends today in Orlando.

John wrote that with all the focus on meaningful use, EHR Innovations Have Gone Missing at HIMSS11. I understand this view – I’ve been a vendor at many trade shows myself (in graphic arts). But that’s also why I see this as a good thing for the ultimate stakeholder – the patient – who has always been utterly disenfranchised. I commented:

I spent most of my life being in various kinds of tech innovation, so I know what you mean. Having said that, I humbly submit that the innovation you seek was innovation that year after year failed to serve consumers (patients), as vendors (remember I was one) sought to entice their paying customers (the people who bought systems). I completely understand this, but the end result was that we consumers have been left out in the cold.

We also have volumes of complaints from system users (hospital workers) about the systems too often being hard to use, getting in the way of their work, etc. I’ve never used one but I’ve talked personally with many doctors about this.

If I understand correctly, what’s happening now is that the regulators have stepped in and said “Dude, you gotta serve the consumer.” I’m no fan of solving things by unnecessary regulation, but in matters like lead paint and toxic food, regulation turned out to be necessary. This situation is different, but it does appear that the sudden halt in other innovation indicates that the meaningful use rules are succeeding in shifting vendors’ focus.

I look forward to when hospitals HAVE to compete for patient business by having features patients like, so they in turn ask for those features from system vendors. The ecosystem will then function on its own again – with the vital difference that for the first time, it will include the people who live or die based on how well the products serve them. Imagine! :-)

If I’ve overlooked something I’m all ears…thoughts?

This brought me back to these slides, extracted from a talk I gave last June, when there was argument (during the definition of the meaningful use rules) about whether vendors should have to make their systems more usable – and the exciting new announcement that HHS was opening its vast databases for any innovator to use as “fuel”:

HHS has since opened a lot more data, and developer contests have already been happening. So I was pleased during HIMSS to also see a tweet citing an HHS official saying that all this data amounts to “rocket fuel” for innovators!

I hope the consumer-oriented regulations are indeed leading vendors to step back from “shiny new objects” and innovate in ways that will help the ultimate stakeholder, who until now has been nothing more than an afterthought.