Lessons for U.S. in UK's Health IT Failure

Lora Bentley
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Key Health Care IT Trends

The good news is that primary focus now seems to be squarely on improving the overall quality of health care and the reduction of human errors.

After nearly a decade and more than $20 billion, the UK's National Health Service decided last month to call it quits on the national health IT program. According to The Wall Street Journal, officials said the program was '"not fit to provide the modern IT services' the health care system needs." They were unwilling to waste more money than had already been spent.


The failure may be all the evidence some naysayers need to turn their backs on the nascent health IT initiative in the U.S. We've heard the arguments, after all. "Meaningful use" is too cumbersome. It will detract from patient care more than help it. Complete interoperabilitiy may not be realistic - or so some have said.


So is the U.S. effort doomed to the same fate? Should we stop now before we're in too deep? InformationWeek's Marianne Kolbasuk McGee says no way. In fact, she says the UK's failure will be the U.S.'s gain, that those leading the initiative here can learn - have already learned - from the mistakes made there. First, she says, a heavy-handed "do-this-or-else" approach isn't the best way to go.


Using incentives to encourage voluntary health care provider buy-in to the program should prove more effective. Former National Health IT Coordinate David Blumenthal told InformationWeek:

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.

Though I agree with McGee that it's too soon to tell whether the U.S. effort will prove successful, it certainly appears to be on a better trajectory than the UK's system was.

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