Our friends over at the Health Care Renewal blog have been providing us much useful material as of late. This time Dr. Scot Silverstein, their persistent critic of electronic health records that have not been properly field-tested before the software companies unleash them on a helpless public, looks at a recent report from the health information technology industry consortium group. He finds it full of gobbledygook, as he puts it, perhaps most notably the idea of "usability maturity model." The industry poobahs admit that their confreres might be hesitant to worry about "usability" of their products, as demanding that docs and nurses actually might be able to use the dang thing before you sell it could cut into sales and profits. But they reassure doubters among them that "usability" is actually a good thing to worry about, because it has a positive ROI (return on investment). Once again, the idea that you might actually make more money if you sell a product that's useable, as opposed to one that's not, seems a revolutionary idea.
Dr. Silverstein is right to be appalled at this tone when we see that the IT industry basically subsumes the notion of patient safety under their idea of "usability." The very idea that the IT industry has to be convinced that worrying about whether your electronic record will cause patients to die is only a good idea if it leads to greater profits gives him the willies.
From our standpoint, we can wonder what will happen when Pharma comes upon this highly promising notion of the "usability maturity model." We will then hear that Vioxx, for instance, did not really cause the estimated 144,000 cases of excess heart disease in the US before it was yanked from the market. The only problem was that its usability matured a little bit too slowly. (Enjoy Dr. Silverstein's blog posting at http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2011/03/himss-and-health-it-we-dont-need.html.)