Do security and privacy make health IT reform impossible?

The hardest thing to be is simple. This is true in story-telling. It's true in science. It's also true in software. Any requirement that gets in the way of simplicity needs to be carefully considered, and pared down to its simplest form, before being tossed at an industry with a lot on its plate.

An ongoing series on health IT reform by Ann Carnes over at Kaiser Health News has a subtext worth discussing here. (Picture from Allscripts.)

To what extent are fears of privacy and security preventing health IT reform?

In her latest piece she profiles a doctor who stopped using an eprescribing pilot because of security and policy problems. The system automatically logged out when inactive, and would not support the full range of medicines being prescribed.

An eprescribing system can cut costs by eliminating paperwork, but it must support what paper is already doing or it's worthless. And if it's a pain to use doctors will give up and go back to their pads.

These are reasonable objections. There is a need for security, privacy and procedure in any health IT implementation. But it must be balanced against the need for simplicity, with its ease of use constantly compared with paper alternatives, to be effective.

The hardest thing to be is simple. This is true in story-telling. It's true in science. It's also true in software.

Any requirement that gets in the way of simplicity needs to be carefully considered, and pared down to its simplest form, before being tossed at an industry with a lot on its plate.

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