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The 5 Best And Worst Recent Health Policy Quotes

I’ve been attending a series of health policy conferences recently – and twittering them live. I’ve heard a lot of smart ideas and a lot of not-so-smart ideas. For your consideration, I offer you my best and worst recent health policy quotes:

The best quotes:

1. Evan Falchuk, Best Doctors: “Since the leading cause of misdiagnosis is a failure of synthesis – a failure by the doctor to put together available information in a way that leads them to the right conclusion – our system ought to be built around helping make sure this happens each and every time.”

2. Aneesh Chopra, Federal CTO“HIT should not be in a box unto itself – put in a corner, making a capital-sucking sound.”

3. Clay Shirky, New Media Guru: “The problem is that, since we all die eventually, everyone will be unhappy with their healthcare at some point. This creates a social dilemma that’s neither transitory nor small. First, there will always be snake oil salesmen peddling ‘eternal life,’ and second, there will always be an unhappy faction who rail against the medical establishment.”

4. Joshua Ofman, Amgen, on comparative clinical effectiveness research: “We don’t want 2 different evidence standards. One to gain market access and a second to lose market access… There is a role for observational data to gain insights. There is a great allure of large, readily accessible databases that are fast – but the power and speed cannot overcome bias and confounding.

5. Vivek Kundra, Federal CIO: “We need to bake security into the architecture that we purchase from the private sector. The sprinkler system is part of any house you purchase – you don’t have to add it later.”

The Worst Quotes:

1. Senator Tom Harkin: “The NCCAM has failed to do their job of validating complementary and alternative medicine therapies.”

2. Senator Max Baucus: “Going to the doctor is like buying a car, except buying a car is a lot more fun.” Bonus quote: “If men liked shopping, they’d call it research.” [???]

3. Theresa Cullen, CIO, Indian Health Service : “At some point we’ll have to tell providers ‘you have to use EHR, we’ve drawn a line. If you don’t use it you’ll have to leave.’”

4. Sean Tunis, Center for Medical Technology Policy: “Randomized Clinical Trials can be designed with generous inclusion and exclusion criteria. Their limited inclusion criteria are not a permanent defect… We can’t wait 5 years for RCTs to be done. We have to find new methods that we can use (a “silver level of evidence” rather than the RCT “gold level”) to help inform our care decisions.”

5. Congressman Pete Stark: “I’m sick of rich doctors driving up in their Porsches saying ‘I’m pulling out of Medicare.’”

Vivek Kundra: Training Physicians To Use EMRs Is The Key To Adoption

I attended the 29th annual Management of Change (MOC) Conference with Dr. Val.  The conference is sponsored by the American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council.  MOC brings together government and industry leaders to share knowledge, collaborate, and develop actionable technology management strategies.  As a physician, attending this conference for the first time, I assumed a great deal of the conference topics would be over my head and in very “techie” terms. My hope was to get a glimpse of some of the technology solutions the government was considering as they relate to health care IT.

Vivek Kundra, first Chief Information Officer of the United States, addressed the audience early in the day in language that even a doc could understand. He spoke about the need to simplify government, and connect people to solutions, instead of “endless bureaucracies.” The same of course goes for medicine. How great would it be to connect our patients to systems that actually had interoperable medical data?

I was able to catch up with Mr. Kundra after his talk for a few minutes and ask him how technological simplification would apply to physicians such as myself, operating in a haphazard infrastructure with varying PAC systems, EMR’s and paper charts. He said the key would not only be investing in technology, but investing in training healthcare personnel to master new technologies. He acknowledged that different generations of physicians would embrace technology differently, but ultimately, if a physician says he “can do a better job on paper” then we have a problem.

I was very impressed by Mr. Kundra’s answer namely because it was so insightful for a man who’s expertise lies primarily in the technology field. He does not come from a healthcare background, and yet had hit the nail on the head. There has been so much talk about HIT being the “key” to cost savings and the next “breakthrough” in medicine. With very little discussion on how physicians feel about it. For some docs – particularly those that come from an older generation – the thought is quite terrifying. They are happy with their paper charts and manual dictations. Health technology is almost viewed as an impediment to those set in their ways, and accustomed to a system that has worked for them and their patients for years. This upheaval will not come without it’s challenges even after we find the best technologies for the tasks at hand. It will be imperative for government leaders to understand that the mission of HIT implementation may be just as difficult as finding the technology solutions they are currently seeking.

As Mr. Kundra and his team embark on this huge task, it will be important for physicians and health care personnel to engage with the government and serve as a guide for what docs need from technology, and what will and will not work for our patients. I hope next year’s conference is attended by more physicians such as myself and Dr. Val.

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