U.S. healthcare IT projects could learn from UK difficulties

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The recent failure of the UK’s National Health Service’s (NHS) $20 billion National Programme for IT could prove a valuable lesson for U.S. healthcare IT policy experts and medical professionals, according to Information Week.

Although the scope and scale of the two countries’ healthcare IT initiatives are different, many of the problems experienced by the NHS could serve as a warning for healthcare professionals and lawmakers in the U.S.

As government agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) offer healthcare providers financial incentives for migrating to medical informatics systems, mandating the transition to electronic health records in the manner employed by the UK government is a flawed approach, according to the news source. The lack of a range of clinical informatics vendors and negotiating large-scale contracts also contributed to the failure of the project.

“The use of incentives, certification of records, and centrally adopted standards provides a framework for national interoperability, but allows each provider to pick the particular record that makes sense for them,” Dr. David Blumenthal, the former coordinator of national health IT, told the news source. “This combination of structure and flexibility is more appropriate to the U.S. context than the UK approach.”

According to the UK Department of Health’s official website, it is no longer appropriate for a centrally mandated government body to determine the healthcare IT infrastructure needs of local health authorities.

Some aspects of the failed initiative will be continued and maintained, such as the adoption of medical informatics networks in some areas and the electronic prescription of medications. The NHS’ formation of a new Major Projects Authority aims to keep track of several large-scale development initiatives simultaneously, while offering healthcare providers a more flexible approach to selecting the healthcare IT infrastructure that suits their needs.