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Slavitt: Doctor Dissatisfaction Makes HIT a ‘Failing Industry’


Former CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt said the fact a majority of physicians hate their current technology means there’s room for improvement in health IT.

Andy Slavitt

Speaking at the nation’s largest health IT gathering, former CMS administrator Andy Slavitt took aim at what he called “a failed industry” due to the simple fact that physicians by and large don’t like the technology they use every day.

“Doctors hate their technology,” he said. “It is not speeding up their lives. … And in every other technology they use, they are getting productivity. [Doctors] believe there is someone, somewhere [intentionally] screwing things up … and to be blunt, CMS did some of that.”

Slavitt, who recently wrapped his two-year tenure at CMS in January, sat on a panel with fellow former CMS administrator Mark McClellan, MD, (2004-2006) at this year’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, to discuss their unique insight as former Washington, D.C. insiders now in the private sector. McClellan currently serves as director of the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University, while Slavitt noted he was currently “unemployed,” but close to announcing a D.C.-based position. This position, he noted, would continue the work he’s taken on since leaving office in talking to state governors, CEOs, physicians and others on various aspects of the current healthcare climate.

Through this work is where Slavitt couched his comments when asked about the advancement of data movement through healthcare stakeholders. Using the example of a primar- care physician trying to get the information from one of his patients who has visited a specialist, Slavitt said getting the information from doctor #1 to doctor #2 shouldn’t be as “technically hard” as it currently is.

Singling out his former employer, Slavitt said that the agency focused more on regulatory hurdles versus spending time with physicians and patients to figure out true solutions to figure out workflow issues. But, he added, CMS made the shift last year to dramatically reduce regulations. He said they“planted the seeds” to reflect more of what physicians wanted and, as a result, urged the IT space to “go talk to your clients” about their true needs and obstacles to providing better patient care.

The Case for Greater Innovation

In order to truly make gains in better healthcare data sharing, Slavitt said the health IT industry needs to stop siloing data, most commonly seen in EHRs.

“It needs to be called out … [that this is] for business reasons, not for technical reasons and products are still not doing what physicians find useful,” he said. “Instead of spending $2 million on a booth at HIMSS, perhaps get thrilled customers then build a big booth.”

Looking ahead at the future of HIT, Slavitt also said a paramount shift will come through pending Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology (ONC) regulations promoting the open application programing interface (API) platform, allowing more innovation in the marketplace.

No longer, Slavitt said, would doctors face “desktop lock” in the devices they have used for the last seven years, but things can change as developers build innovations into HIT to truly reflect the needs of physicians nationwide.

“The whole game should change,” Slavitt said, “and there should start to be some innovating. …[HIT] is a bit of a failing industry in that they are not satisfying their customers. The vast majority [of doctors] don’t like the technology they are using, so there is an enormous opportunity to use new openness to make things better.”

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