So, setting politics aside for the moment, let me close with a few hopeful signs:
- This month HIMSS launched its Health IT Value Suite, which categorizes money-saving and quality-improving health IT stories, a first step toward an evidence-based repository of healthcare IT best practices.
- The HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association now has an EHR Code of Conduct.
- 190 million e-prescriptions have been filled so far. How many medical errors were avoided due to lack of indecipherable handwriting? How many dollars and lives has that saved?
- Despite the sequester, CMS and ONC have continued to hold many online meetings to educate providers about their current efforts, and to continue preparatory work on Stage 3 of Meaningful Use.
- There are hundreds of knowledgeable committee participants at the ONC policy and standards committee and subcommittee levels. Without a doubt, they are dedicated to tackling the tough technology issues that lie between where we are today and the outcomes we desire from Meaningful Use.
- They also see the coming wave of ubiquitous medical sensors and are working hard to integrate them with our health records. The tone of these meetings is refreshingly collegial, in welcome contrast to the rancorous debate found in the political realm.
Every week in this column, I find someone improving quality or lowering cost in a small way through technology. But if you've ever read Nicholas Carr's Pulitzer-nominated book, The Big Switch, you'll know that electric motors provided a lot of value to individual businesses long before there was an electric grid. We're at that point now with healthcare IT. We've paid for most of the motors, and are hoping that the grid to move information from healthcare business to healthcare business will inevitably follow.
But we are not there yet, and much remains to do.
Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.