News of the Day ... In Perspective11/17/2006
Head of Kaiser’s digital project quits; former Intel head promotes KISS strategy
After a Kaiser-Permanente employee sent a scathing e-mail to most of the company’s 140,000 employees criticizing HealthContact, J. Clifford Dodd, the executive in charge of the $3 billion electronic medical records system, resigned.
In the e-mail, Justen Deal, a Los Angeles project supervisor, said that cost overruns were frequent and software breakdowns often left doctors and patients without access to medical records for long periods.
Deal was placed on administrative leave pending investigation of possible violation of the company’s e-mail policy. A company spokesman said Dodd’s departure was unrelated to the e-mail, and that HealthContact was experiencing only minor problems.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, digitizing medical records is “the most important thing happening in healthcare.” Kaiser is at the forefront of the effort to get prescriptions, diagnoses, and doctors’ comments online.
The Kaiser project, one of the biggest private projects ever to be pushed so fast, is supposed to be complete by 2009. If the system fails, a fix could be very costly.
An internal “worst-case scenario” report said that the company could lose $7 billion over 2 years if cost-cutting efforts failed. Savings from the electronic medical records system are supposed to help (Daniel Costello, LA Times 11/8/06).
While most tech companies, including Intel, have a vested interest in complicated, expensive systems for medical records, Intel’s former CEO Andy Groves advises medicine to “shift left.” That refers to an axis on which services become more full-featured, complex, and expensive as you move rightward. To shift left means to “keep it simple, stupid.” Medical records, he thinks, should be kept in generic but Web-accessible word processing files (Lee Gomes, Wall St J 11/1/06).