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Editorials

(Click on title to be directed to editorial, most recent listed first)

Questioning the Inspectors
Qualitygate: The Quality Movement's First Scandal
What's Wrong with Expert Opinion?
The Tremendous Threes! Annual Report from the Editor
Obamacare and Computers-Who Is to Blame? 
HIPAA-Protecting Patient Confidentiality or Covering Something Else?
Are Medical Guidelines Better Than Flipping a Coin?
Who Will Benefit and Who Will Lose from Obamacare?
Smoking, Epidemiology and E-Cigarettes
Treatment after a COPD Exacerbation
Executive Pay and the High Cost of Healthcare
Choosing Wisely-Where Is the Choice?
The State of Pulmonary and Critical Care in the Southwest
Doxycycline and IL-8 Modulation in a Line of Human Alveolar 
   Epithelium: More Evidence for the Anti-Inflammatory Function 
   of Some Antimicrobials
What to Expect from Obamacare
The Terrific Twos! Annual Report from the Editor
Maintaining Medical Competence
Interference with the Patient–Physician Relationship
Guidelines for Starting Today’s Private Practice
The Emperor Has No Clothes: The Accuracy of
    of Hospital Performance Data 
Getting the Best Care at the Lowest Price
A New Paradigm to Improve Patient Outcomes
A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing
VA Administrators Gaming the System
Will Fewer Tests Improve Healthcare or Profits?
Identification of a Biomarker of Sleep Deficiency—
   Are We Tilting Windmills?
Competition or Cooperation?
Follow the Money
Happy First Birthday SWJPCC! 
The Hefty Price of Obstructive Sleep Apnea 
Mismanagement at the VA: Where’s the Problem? 
Why Is It So Difficult to Get Rid of Bad Guidelines?
Changes In Medicine: Job Security 
Changes In Medicine: The Decline Of Physician Autonomy 
Changes in Medicine: Fellowship
Changes in Medicine: Residency
Changes in Medicine: Medical School
The Pain of The Timeout 
Guidelines, Recommendations and Improvement in Healthcare
COPD, COOP and BREATH at the VA
SWJPCC: The first three months
Why Start A New Pulmonary/Critical Care Journal? 

 

The Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care publishes editorials related to manuscripts in the Journal as well as areas of interest to the pulmonary, critical care and sleep communities. In general, editorials are written by the editors or are invited. However, the Journal will consider editorials written by others. Before submitting, a potential author of the editorial should contact the editor.

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Sunday
Mar162014

Questioning the Inspectors

In the early twentieth century hospitals were unregulated and care was arbitrary, nonscientific and often poor. The Flexner report of 1910 and the establishment of hospital standards by the American College of Surgeons in 1918 began the process of hospital inspection and improvement (1). The later program eventually evolved into what we know today as the Joint Commission. Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals have been inspected and accredited by the Joint Commission since the Reagan administration.

The VA hospitals often share reports regarding recent Joint Commission inspections and disseminate the reports as a "briefing". One of these briefings from a recent  Amarillo VA inspection was widely distributed as an email attachment and forwarded to me (for a copy of the briefing click here). There were several items in the briefing that are noteworthy. One was on the first page (highlighted in the attachment) where the briefing stated, "Surveyor recommended teaching people how to smoke with oxygen, not just discuss smoking cessation". However, patients requiring oxygen should not smoke with oxygen flowing (2,3).  It is not that oxygen is explosive but a patient lighting a cigarette in a high oxygen environment can ignite their oxygen tubing resulting in a facial burn (2,3). A very rare but more serious situation can occur when a home fire results from ignition of clothing, bedding, etc. (3).

A quick Google search revealed no data for any program teaching patients to smoke on oxygen. It is possible that the author of the "briefing" misunderstood the Joint Commission surveyor. However, the lack of physician, nurse and respiratory therapist autonomy makes it easy to envision administrative demands for a program to "teach people how to smoke on oxygen" wasting clinician and technician time to do something that is potentially harmful.

Although this is an extreme and absurd example of healthcare directed by bureaucrats, review of the remainder of the "briefing" is only slightly less disappointing. Most of the Joint Commission's recommendations for Amarillo would not be expected to improve healthcare and even fewer have an evidence basis. The Joint Commission focus should be on those standards demonstrated to improve patient outcomes rather than a series of arbitrary meaningless metrics. For example, a Joint Commission inspection should include an assessment of the adequacy of nurse staffing, are the major medical specialties and subspecialties readily accessible, is sufficient equipment and space provided to care for the patients, etc. (4-5).  By ignoring the important and focusing on the insignificant, the Joint Commission is pushing hospitals towards arbitrary and nonscientific care reminiscent of the last century. These poor hospital inspections will undoubtedly eventually lead to poorer patient outcomes.

Richard A. Robbins, MD*

Editor

References

  1. Borus ME, Buntz CG, Tash WR. Evaluating the Impact of Health Programs: A Primer. 1982. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  2. Robb BW, Hungness ES, Hershko DD, Warden GD, Kagan RJ. Home oxygen therapy: adjunct or risk factor? J Burn Care Rehabil. 2003;24(6):403-6. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Ahrens M. Fires And Burns Involving Home Medical Oxygen. National Fire Protection. Association. Available at: http://www.nfpa.org/safety-information/for-consumers/causes/medical-oxygen (accessed 3/12/14).
  4. Aiken LH, Clarke SP, Sloane DM, Sochalski J, Silber JH. Hospital nurse staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout, and job dissatisfaction. JAMA. 2002 Oct 23-30;288(16):1987-93. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  5. Harrold LR, Field TS, Gurwitz JH. Knowledge, patterns of care, and outcomes of care for generalists and specialists. J Gen Intern Med. 1999;14(8):499-511. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

*The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado or California Thoracic Societies or the Mayo Clinic.

Reference as: Robbins RA. Questioning the inspectors. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(3):188-9. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc032-14 PDF

Monday
Feb242014

Qualitygate: The Quality Movement's First Scandal

Charles R. Denham is probably not a name familiar to most of our readers. Denham's name popped into the news when the Justice Department alleged that CareFusion, then a division of Cardinal Healthcare, paid Denham $11.6 million to influence the Safe Practices Committee at the National Quality Forum (NQF).

Dr. Charles R. Denham

Even though Denham may not be well known, readers might recognize the names of some of the organizations and individuals with whom Denham worked (2,3). Besides the NQF, these include the Institute of Medicine, Leapfrog Group, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Clinton Global Health Initiative, Discovery Channel, General Electric, Cleveland Clinic, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Catholic Healthcare Partners, and Seton Medical Center. Prominent individuals associated with Denham include actor Dennis Quaid (whose newborn twins were nearly killed by a medication mistake) and Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, famous for safely landing a crippled jetliner in the Hudson River. Lesser known, but prominent in the patient safety movement, are Dr. Kenneth Kizer (former Under Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and founding president and former CEO of the NQF) and Dr. Donald Berwick (founder and former President of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement and former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

Denham is a member of the President's Circle of the National Academies of Science of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He has been a Senior Fellow in the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University and instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health. He teaches leadership and innovation on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and was an adjunct Professor at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. He played a leadership role in the development of a computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE) simulator that measures performance improvement of hospital medication management systems, driving patient safety through healthcare information technologies. He founded CareMoms, CareKids, and CareUniversity, which are programs that are focused on helping families survive healthcare harm and waste. He was until very recently the editor of the Journal of Patient Safety (4).

Many groups have benefitted by recommending best practices, but an endorsement by the NQF can mean riches for companies and individuals (4). Created in 1999 at the behest of a Presidential commission, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit takes private donations and collects fees from members, including consumer groups, health plans and medical providers. Five years ago, Health and Human Services hired the NQF to endorse measures to show whether health care spending is achieving value for patients and taxpayers. The contract has since grown substantially and by 2012 made up nearly three-fourths of the organization’s $26 million in revenue. The NQF’s standards are widely adopted. The report produced by the committee Denham co-chaired included recommendations for best practices in 34 areas of care.

The quality movement is distancing itself from Denham and denying any knowledge of Denham's conflicts of interest or alleged kickbacks (5). However, there were multiple clues. Although Denham was trained as a radiation oncologist, he was not a practicing physician (6). Known as an entrepreneur, Denham had formed and folded numerous for-profit and non-profit companies. Those listed by the Texas Secretary of State’s office include the Texas Institute of Medical Technology; Health Care Concepts; TD Enterprises Management; Spectrum Holdings International (also known as Austin Liberty, Inc.); Tetelestai, Inc. (Greek for “It is finished,” a New Testament reference); Aircare International, Inc. (Denham at one time worked in the aviation industry); CRD Health Ventures, Inc.; and Assisted Better Living Everywhere, Inc. Denham and his family live in a palatial waterfront home in Laguna Beach, California, whose value Zillow estimates at $10.5 million (6). The speaker’s bureau lists Denham’s minimum fee for U.S. engagements as an average of $50,000 to $75,000, far in excess of usual physician speaking fees (6). Denham even boasted his own webpage on Wikipedia and had a contract with Celebrity Talent International (2,4). Although Denham's biography in Wikipedia claims over 100 scientific publications a quick check of PubMed reveals only 25 with nearly all published in the last 5 years in the Journal of Patient Safety where Denham was editor.

In his article in Forbes, Michael Millenson quotes an accomplished patient safety advocate who left her first meeting with Denham convinced she had met with one of the most brilliant individuals of her life (4). Those who know Denham suspect that he would agree (6). The tendency of very smart and successful individuals to boss others is well known because in their own minds they are smarter and better, even when the evidence says otherwise. Some can even blur the boundaries between what they have done, what they are doing and what they hope to do-convincing themselves that it is in the patients' best interests. Like Watergate did to the Nixon White House, Denham has tainted many in the quality movement. Hence the title of this editorial-"Qualitygate". A lot of money is involved in patient safety and there are undoubtedly some willing to sacrifice principles for personal gain. This will probably not be the last scandal in the quality movement. As we have noted previously, there are probably too many guidelines based on expert opinion and some are wrong (7). Physicians need to exercise their own best judgment in deciding which guidelines need to be implemented.

Richard A. Robbins, MD*

Editor

Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care

References

  1. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs. CareFusion to pay the government $40.1 million to resolve allegations that include more than $11 million in kickbacks to one doctor". Available at: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/January/14-civ-021.html (accessed 2/21/14).
  2. Wikipedia. Charles Denham. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Denham (accessed 2/21/14). 
  3. Newswise. Dr. Charles Denham named editor of Journal of Patient Safety. Available at: http://www.newswise.com/articles/dr-charles-denham-named-editor-of-journal-of-patient-safety (accessed 2/21/14).
  4. Allen M. Hidden financial ties rattle top health quality group. Propublica. Available at: http://www.propublica.org/article/hidden-financial-ties-rattle-top-health-quality-group (accessed 2/21/14).
  5. Carlson J. Groups cut ties to Denham. Modern Healthcare. Available at: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140201/MAGAZINE/302019962 (accessed 2/21/14). 
  6. Millenson M. The money, the MD and a $12 million patient safety scandal. Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelmillenson/2014/02/14/the-money-the-md-and-a-12-million-patient-safety-scandal/ (accessed 2/21/14).
  7. Robbins RA. What's wrong with expert opinion? Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(1):71-3. [CrossRef]

*The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado or California Thoracic Societies or the Mayo Clinic.

Reference as: Robbins RA. Qualitygate: the quality movement's first scandal. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(2):132-4. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc022-14 PDF

Friday
Jan312014

What's Wrong with Expert Opinion?

In this month's Pulmonary Journal Club Dr. Mathew reviews an article by Feuerstein et al. (1) from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2). The authors reviewed  the evidence basis for 153 interventional guidelines including 2 from the American College of Chest Physicians and the American Thoracic Society. Of the 3425 recommendations reviewed, 11% were supported by level A evidence, 42% by level B, and 48% by level C. These numbers are very close to the results published by Lee and Vielemeyer (3) for the Infectious Disease Society of America guidelines where only 14% of the guidelines were based on level A evidence and 55% by level C.

So what's wrong with the majority of guidelines based on expert opinion? After all, these are experts in the field and it can be argued that most of these opinions are probably right and that physicians want guidance from the experts. The problem is that they are opinion and sometimes wrong. When they are wrong the potential exists for causing large and devastating harm to patients. This has become an increasingly frequent. As examples:

  1. Tight control of glucose in the intensive care unit which according to the largest and best done multi-center trial, causes a 14% increase in ICU mortality (4).
  2. Xigris (activated protein C) for adults with septic shock which caused an increase in bleeding and a small but insignificant increase in mortality leading to withdrawal of the drug (5).
  3. Perioperative beta blockers which Cole and Francis calculated caused an excess mortality of 800,000 deaths in Europe over the past 5 years (6).
  4. Fluid boluses for in African children with severe infection which caused a 49% increase in mortality (7).

Guideline interventions leading to a decrease in mortality are rare and there are no carefully-done, randomized trials of guidelines that have shown a 14% decrease in mortality in the ICU, saved 800,000 lives or improved mortality by 49% in severe infection. So the question arises why were these guidelines put in place, and in some cases, why do they persist? In an editorial which was to be published on January 21 in the European Heart Journal, Cole and Francis raised the possibility that the responsibility for misconduct lies not just with misguided researchers but also the institutions and the institutional leaders that provide uncritical support to research factories. Further, they discussed the role of journal editors and, even, journal readers. However, the two editorials were withdrawn about an hour after the first was published.

It appears that some guidelines have become a cesspool of conflicts of interest (COI). As pointed out in the article Dr. Mathew reviewed, 62% of the guidelines failed to comment on COIs; when disclosed, 91% of guidelines reported COIs. In a egregious example of COI influencing guidelines, the research done by Don Poldermans on perioperative beta blockers has been discredited and he has been dismissed from his university (6). Poldermans also chaired the guideline writing committee for the European Society of Cardiology on perioperative beta blockers. The previously mentioned editorials by Cole and Francis discussing Poldermans' research and its implications were retracted by the European Heart Journal. Why the journal chose to retract the editorials is unclear but one wonders if threats of loss of advertising or lawsuits from pharmaceutical company lawyers may have had something to do with it.

The story of Xigris is a further example of COIs gone amuck (8,9). Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Xigris, provided a $1.8 million grant to fund a task force on “Values, Ethics and Rationing in Critical Care” reportedly to further the concept that it was unethical to withhold Xigris from septic patients. Eli Lilly provided over 90% of the funding for The Surviving Sepsis Campaign, launched in October 2002 to create guidelines for the treatment of sepsis.  Many of the international experts who formulated the recommendations of this group had significant outside financial relationships with Eli Lilly. As subsequent prospective trials began to raise important concerns regarding the safety and efficacy of Xigris, these concerns were repeatedly and conspicuously absent from published recommendations of the Surviving Sepsis campaign. In 2004, Eli Lilly started a program of offering unrestricted grants to institutions for implementing Surviving Sepsis Campaign patient management bundles.

The leaders in healthcare from the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to the local leaders often have substantial COIs combined with a weak backgrounds in medicine and research. For example, the evidence basis for IHI's 100,000 Lives Campaign was weak (10). However, the non-peer reviewed press releases allowed IHI to receive a landslide of “brand recognition” which undoubtedly led to substantial new revenues and philanthropic dollars (10). Locally, many CEOs and managers are operating under incentive systems that tie bonuses to guideline compliance. One chairman of medicine, asked me, "Why is my bonus tied to how many pneumococcal vaccines are administered?". Others may not be so willing to question the hand that feeds them.

It is unclear why professional societies and medical boards have been so silent about guidelines with a weak evidence base. Both were created to protect the public's health. Practice of medicine and nursing has been restricted to those with appropriate education and licensure who accept the responsibility for their actions. The guideline process can allow the unscrupulous to side step these regulations and responsibility, sometimes for their own financial gain. If the medical societies and medical boards are unwilling to intervene, perhaps a federal agency or regulator not vulnerable to such concerns might be better suited to regulate the implementation of guidelines.

Richard A. Robbins, MD*

Editor

References

  1. Feuerstein JD, Akbari M, Gifford AE, Hurley CM, Leffler DA, Sheth SG, Cheifetz AS. Systematic analysis underlying the quality of the scientific evidence and conflicts of interest in interventional medicine subspecialty guidelines. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014;89(1):16-24. [CrossRef] [PubMed] 
  2. Mathew M. January 2014 pulmonary journal club: interventional guidelines. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(1):70. [CrossRef]
  3. Lee DH, Vielemeyer O. Analysis of overall level of evidence behind infectious diseases society of America practice guidelines. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171:18-22. [CrossRef] [PubMed] 
  4. NICE-SUGAR Study Investigators, Finfer S, Chittock DR, et al. Intensive versus conventional glucose control in critically ill patients. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(13):1283-97. [CrossRef] [PubMed] 
  5. Ranieri VM, Thompson BT, Barie PS, et al. Drotrecogin alfa (activated) in adults with septic shock. N Engl J Med 2012; 366:2055-64. [CrossRef] [PubMed] 
  6. Maitland K, Kiguli S, Opoka RO, et al. Mortality after fluid bolus in African children with severe infection. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(26):2483-95. [CrossRef] [PubMed] 
  7. Eichacker PQ, Natanson C, Danner RL. Surviving Sepsis – Practice guidelines, marketing campaigns and Eli Lilly. N Engl J Med 2006;355:1640-2. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  8. Raschke RA. July 2012 critical care journal club. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2012;5:54-7.
  9. Robbins RA. The unfulfilled promise of the quality movement. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(1):50-63. [CrossRef]

*The views expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado or California Thoracic Societies or the Mayo Clinic.

Reference as: Robbins RA. What's wrong with expert opinion? Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014;8(1):71-3. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc008-14 PDF

Wednesday
Jan012014

The Tremendous Threes! Annual Report from the Editor

With the end of 2013, the Southwest Journal of Pulmonary and Critical Care (SWJPCC) completed its third year of operation. Our first manuscript was posted on November 11, 2010. We posted 8 manuscripts our first year, 68 in 2011, 113 in 2012 and 164 in 2013 (Table 1).

Table 1. Yearly submissions, total postings and postings by category.

Accompanying our increase in manuscripts, our readership has steadily grown to over 12,000/month unique IP addresses and over 16,000/month page views (the number of files that are requested from a site, also known as “hits”) (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Growth of unique IP addresses and page views by month November 2010 to December 2013.

We had some big changes in 2013. Some of which are listed below:

  • The Mayo Clinic Minnesota Critical Care partnered with the Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado Thoracic Societies in SWJPCC.
  • Continuing medical education was offered for the Cases of the Month in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Imaging
  • There was a marked increase in the number of imaging postings, particularly the “Medical Image of the Week”.
  • We have begun a monthly series entitled “Ultrasound for Critical Care Physicians” taking advantage of an on-line’s journal capability to display movies.
  • A Tucson Pulmonary Journal Club was added.
  • We added digital object identifiers (doi) for each posting.
  • We began using CrossRef to link references to their doi and to PubMed.
  • CLOCKSS began preserving our content.

Many need to be thanked. First, thanks to our authors. You took a chance on a new journal and we appreciate the opportunity to publish your work. Second, thanks to our reviewers.  SWJPCC, like all journals, relies upon expert reviewers in order to publish the highest quality manuscripts. We thank the reviewers for their time and effort in the prompt submission of their reviews. A list of reviewers for 2013 is below:

  • Owen Austrheim
  • David Baratz
  • Jay Blum
  • Michel Boivin
  • Rohit Budhiraja
  • Janet Campion
  • John Galgiani
  • Michael Garrett
  • Richard Gerkin
  • Michael Gotway
  • Richard Helmers
  • Steven Klotz
  • James Knepler
  • KennethKnox
  • Timothy Kuberski
  • Calvin Kunin
  • Manoj Mathew
  • Vijaychandran Nair
  • Sairam Pathsarathy
  • Vinay Prasad
  • Neal Rinee
  • Clement Singarajah
  • Linda Snyder
  • Allen Thomas
  • Lewis Wesselius

Our gratitude goes to the Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado Thoracic Societies and the Mayo Clinic Rochester for their support. Thanks to our associate editors who have put in much more work than we had the right to ask. A special note of thanks to those who continue to do regular features in SWJPCC-Bob Raschke and Manoj Mathew for the critical care and pulmonary journal clubs; Mike Gotway, Lew Wesselius and Bob Raschke for the cases of the month; Rohit Budhiraja for the Sleep Question of the Month; and Ken Knox for the Medical Image of the Week; and Peter Wagner for his wine column, Slurping Around with PDW. SWJPCC acknowledges the Phoenix Pulmonary and Critical Care Research and Education Foundation which has provided the monetary support for SWJPCC and Squarespace our web host. Last, and most importantly, thanks to our readers. Please visit as often as you can and feel free to provide us with your input.

What’s ahead for 2014? We hope to improve the content, especially the scientific content, for 2014, but we will continue to emphasize clinical medicine and education. CME will continue to be offered for the previous 12 Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Imaging Cases of the Month for a total of 36 CME offerings at any one time. We would welcome suggestions for any improvements.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

Reference as: Robbins RA. The tremedous threes! annual report from the editor. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2014:8(1):1-3. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc001-14 PDF

Thursday
Oct312013

Obamacare and Computers-Who Is to Blame?

Count me among the unsympathetic to the recent Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) problems with the rollout of Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act. Yesterday, Marilyn Tavenner, the Administrator of CMS, apologized for the troubled rollout of the federal health insurance web site and promised to fix the problems that have prevented many consumers from signing up for coverage (1). Today, Tavenner’s boss, Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary acknowledged “frustrating” problems that would be fixed “as soon as possible”. She offered an apology for the site’s troubled launch, while also attributing the glitches to private-sector contractors (2). The later is particularly telling.

We have repeatedly heard how the “magic” of the computer can solve problems in health care (3). To this end, CMS created a Medicare Electronic Health Care (EHR) Incentive Program and touted that eligible professionals could receive up to $44,000 over 5 years for full implementation (4). However, CMS estimated the average cost of implementing an EHR over 5 years was $48,000 or a loss of $4,000 assuming the best reimbursement. It is not clear how close these dollar amounts match the actual numbers but a number of private practice physicians have complained that the cost was much more and the reimbursement much less (Robbins RA, unpublished observations). What was most disturbing is the implication that physicians are to blame when EHR implementation is slow or fails to achieve the promised improved care at lower costs (3).

The recent Obamacare rollout problems can be blamed on a variety of issues from too many contractors involved, inadequate testing, poor leadership, etc., but the main fault has been the perception that health information technology (IT) is easy. However, the available evidence suggests that health IT is not “magic”.  In most industries, IT has taken years, often decades to exert its effects (5).  Personally I believe health IT can have a huge beneficial effect on healthcare delivery-but it might take a decade or two. 

A meaningful partnership between clinicians, administrators and payers achieving and rewarding high-value care is needed. To do this physicians need considerable input, and perhaps more importantly, control of any EHR. Second, physicians need to be rewarded for good care which is centered on improved patient outcomes and not endless checklists that do little more than consume time. Failure to do so will result in inefficient and more costly care and not in the improvements Obamacare promised. To paraphrase Cassius from Julius Caesar, the fault is not in our contractors, but in ourselves. It is distressing that political ambition and arrogance may jeopardize the healthcare of millions of Americans.

Richard A. Robbins, MD*

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Somashekhar S. Administration official Marilyn Tavenner apologizes for HealthCare.gov problems. Washington Post. October 29, 2013. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/administration-official-marilyn-tavenner-apologizes-for-healthcaregov-problems/2013/10/29/4d2a07ea-40c6-11e3-9c8b-e8deeb3c755b_story.html (accessed 10/30/13).
  2. Branigin W, Somashekhar S. Kathleen Sebelius acknowledges “frustrating” problems with health-care web site. Washington Post. October 30, 2013. Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/kathleen-sebelius-acknowledges-frustrating-problems-with-health-care-web-site/2013/10/30/8cf36c98-415e-11e3-a751-f032898f2dbc_story.html (accessed 10/30/13).
  3. Robbins RA. Getting the best care at the lowest price. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care 2012;5:145-8.
  4. http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/index.html?redirect=/ehrincentiveprograms/ (accessed 10/30/13).
  5. Jha A. As the debate over Obamacare implementation rages, a success on the IT front. The Health Care Blog. July 12, 2013. Available at: http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/2013/07/12/as-the-debate-over-obamacare-implementation-rages-a-success-on-the-it-front/ (accessed 10/30/13).

*The views expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arizona, New Mexico or Colorado Thoracic Societies or the Mayo Clinic.

Reference as: Robbins RA. Obamacare and computers-who is to blame? Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2013;7(4):269-70. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc145-13 PDF