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Healthcare IT Leadership Requires a Thick Skin

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, September 25, 2012

And then I hear about a hospital where claims data had to be transferred from provider to payer on reel-to-reel magnetic tapes.  And I walk away shaking my head.

But we are kidding ourselves if we think that the blazing fast computers of 2012 and the ubiquitous wired and wireless tendrils of the Internet are sufficient to complete the task at hand.

A mantra often repeated is that healthcare lags behind other industries in the use of technology. I would submit that the challenges healthcare faces are far greater than the challenges faced by other industries.

Lives are at stake. Just like healthcare itself, healthcare information needs to be delivered at the right time, to the right place, to the right people, and only to them. Yet we have a federal privacy law, HIPAA, which actually makes that more difficult than it should be. I wonder if it's even conceivable to modify HIPAA to bring it into the 21st century. Probably not while so many laptops keep getting lost and stolen.

I sympathize with CEOs such as Anna Roth of California's Contra Costa Health Services, who last week faced her second public worker protest since her system went live with Epic on July 1.

The first time around, it was the nurses, sounding alarms about patient safety and inadequate training. This time, Ori Tzvieli, MD, Contra Costa Regional Medical Center medical staff president, whose union is negotiating a new contract with the county, drafted a letter which was signed by 14 physician colleagues, including the chairs of the departments of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, and dentistry. Talk about a gauntlet.

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