The Machinery Behind Health-Care Reform

Robert O’Harrow tells the story of how Harvard, Harvard Partners HealthCare, Blackford Middleton, and the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the health IT industry’s lobby, got $27B for HIT into the stimulus bill.

HIMSS used classic industry lobbying strategy:
1. Never let a crisis go to waste (in this case the economic crisis) to drive funding for industry.
  1. a. They were very clever because

  • i. The HIT industry was NOT failing (unlike the auto industry) and did not need a stimulus

2. Fund a ‘think tank’ to produce ‘research’ promoting HIT as a way to lower costs, improve healthcare, etc., etc.—in this case headed by Blackford Middleton MD of Harvard.
3. Use the ‘research’ to promote HIT and lobby for stimulus funds.
-Harvard-branded  ‘research’ is very powerful:
  1. b. Non-profit organizations were funded “
  2. to press for electronic health records”

  3. c. Blumenthal, Daschle, and the Obama Administration were ‘sold’ on the ‘research’.
  4. d. The ‘research’ gave Blumenthal, Daschle, and the Obama Administration a way to justify dismissing the problems OMB and other sceptics raised about the ‘research’
  • iii. Mark Frisse and Joseph Antos are sceptics quoted about the ‘research’.
  1. e. Congress was ‘sold’ on the ‘research’ which claims that HIT will reduce costs, etc.
4. HIMSS and the Harvard ‘think tank’ draft much of HITECH’s plan to purchase flawed HIT systems.
5. Congress passed the stimulus bill with $2B more for HIT than the $25B HIMSS recommended
6. Industry wins.
7. Public loses.
  1. f. The public’s expectations and rights of control over health information are eliminated by funding flawed HIT/EHRs and data exchanges.

The result almost 4 years later is we have no idea where our health data is held, who is using it or why—no health data map, no ‘chain of custody’ for where our data flows, no way to control health data in electronic systems or data exchanges, and no way to stop data sales (a recent example is Medtronics selling records from patients’ wireless heart monitors).

Soon, we will finally be able to download electronic copies of our health data, a crucial first step to restoring control over our own information. Once we have all our health information, then we can press to restore control over whi can see, use or sell it.
To view the full article, please visit: The Machinery Behind Health-Care Reform