Researchers say healthcare progress impeded by innovation gap

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According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, medical informatics vendors are hampering innovation in healthcare and have not adapted to the changing information technology (IT) landscape.

The commentary suggests that clinical informatics vendors are resistant to change and have been reluctant to introduce functionality that could improve operational efficiency in modern healthcare environments in order to maintain their position in the marketplace.

Kenneth Mandl and Isaac Kohane, authors of the report and professors at Harvard Medical School, claim electronic health record (EHR) vendors have misled physicians and the healthcare IT community regarding the specialized nature of clinical software in order to stifle innovation.

“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,” the article reads. “In reality, diverse functionality needn’t reside within single EHR systems, and there’s a clear path toward better, safer, cheaper and nimbler tools for managing health care’s complex tasks.”

Mandl and Kohane add that contemporary medical informatics technology lags behind specialized IT systems utilized in other industries. They pointed out that many EHRs fail to take advantage of modular system architectures, and that vendors have been reluctant to embrace information liquidity practices.

Kohane told Information Week that while the processes and functionality of medical informatics systems are unique to healthcare IT, the ways in which new software is developed should be centered around an open source workflow to encourage innovation. He added that many EHRs were based on software intended for use in billing systems and that specific functionality has been “tacked on” instead of being developed with physicians in mind.