News Feature | March 7, 2017

Slavitt: Health IT Industry Needs To "Do Better"

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

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Improvements in Health IT capabilities have not translated into better quality of care.

While Health IT has seen radical improvements in its capabilities over the past several years, former acting CMS administrator Andy Slavitt told HIStalk it has not translated into better quality of care or job productivity. He urged the Health IT industry to “do better.”

Slavitt served as CMS acting administrator from March 2015 to January 2017. In his interview, he expressed frustration with the health IT industry, saying taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth out of $35 billion in federal funding for health IT investments.

Slavitt has not lost hope for the future, however, saying while there has been no return realized on federal investments in health IT so far, “I don’t think anybody should lose promise in the power of what technology can do.”

In an earlier discussion at MATTER, Slavitt touted the value of entrepreneurs for the healthcare industry, saying, “You got be nuts to be an entrepreneur, particularly in healthcare.” He sees particular opportunities in designing solutions to help close disparities in healthcare coverage for Americans. According to Slavitt, the next revolution in American healthcare will come from eliminating those gaps.

He also stressed the importance of Big Data, both in designing new solutions and working with Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). He says, “I’ve never seen an industry become an industry before they create satisfied customers,” referring to the rise of EMRs even as clinicians express great disappointment in the technology. Slavitt explained healthcare providers are frustrated that “nobody has paid attention to their workflow” throughout the EMR’s widespread growth.

Slavitt explained to HIStalk, “Here’s what we’ve accomplished — and I’m sure you could agree or disagree and have as much knowledge base if not more than I do on this topic — but there’s now what I call a chicken in every pot. You walk into a doctor’s office, you walk into a hospital, and they have technology there. It’s not as connected as it should be, it’s not giving people the information they need. It’s not satisfying the clinicians in general. It’s not increasing their productivity. It’s probably not improving care.

“But remember, before the ARRA, we didn’t even have the means to have the technology to hook up. We’re sort of like using computers pre-Internet, wondering why our factories aren’t getting more productive. We’ve got computers and it’s just basically fancy ways of writing down what we used to do in pen and paper.”

He did chastise the industry, however, saying, “I get a little bit sickened every time I go to HIMSS, in some part, because we’ve got this massive industry that puts on a great party and mass massive shows, and yet they have a customer base that is basically unsatisfied with the product. That seems like it’s where we should put all our energy.”