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  The Health Record Review
by Jeff Rowe, Editor

Is health IT "qualitatively different"?

One way or another, all companies like to think they're different or better than their competition.

But how about when it comes to entire categories of technology? For example, is health IT really that different from myriad other types of IT?

According to this article, probably not. In fact, the writer considers it “a widely accepted myth that medicine requires complex, highly specialized information-technology (IT) systems.”

Just a bit later, he suggests that “Even as consumer IT — word-processing programs, search engines, social networks, e-mail systems, mobile phones and apps, music players, gaming platforms — has become deeply integrated into the fabric of modern life, physicians find themselves locked into pre–Internet-era electronic health records (EHRs) that aspire to provide complete and specialized environments for diverse tasks.”

And then comes the money quote: “We believe that EHR vendors propagate the myth that health IT is qualitatively different from industrial and consumer products in order to protect their prices and market share and block new entrants.” Them’s fightin’ words, as the saying goes, and we’d like to hear what our readers think about that claim.

But whether or not the health IT marketplace is as intentionally skewed as this writer thinks, it’s hard not to suspect, given the facility with which other industries have adapted technologically, that a more flexible flow of health information could be possible sooner rather than later.

As this piece sees it, “A healthy IT marketplace would favor disruptive innovations (simple products and services that initially serve the bottom of a market and then move up to displace established competitors) for improving patient engagement, communication, and care coordination. Improved population health obtained at a lower cost would result. Just as consumers select and manage myriad technologies — Facebook for social networking, Twitter for microblogging, Google for search, iTunes for music — so should physicians. Only a small subset of loosely coupled information technologies need to be highly specific to health care. Many components can be generic.”

What do you think? Are they onto something?