Tech Companies Blew Their Chance with Health Records

Chris Tomlinson | Houston Chronicle | April 10, 2015

Given flexibility, tech companies take the low road in developing new industry

The tech industry likes to portray itself as well-intentioned innovators, dedicated to the belief that information wants to be free and that sharing is the best way to improve the lives of all of humans. That's why the federal Department of Health and Human Services decided maybe it was best not to be too prescriptive in setting standards for electronic health records. By leaving open the possibility for innovation, the agency hoped it wouldn't stifle the chance of something really cool happening. After all, the goal is to make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to share patients' information to make sure they get the best possible care for the lowest possible cost.

Turns out, though, that the tech industry is just as selfish as any other private concern. A new report from the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology finds that instead of innovating, companies developing electronic health records did their best to create expensive systems that were very difficult to share, all in the hope of locking clients into lucrative, long-term contracts.

Instead of developing standardized, open source software that would allow the easy transfer of health records from a doctor's office in Houston to an emergency room in Dallas, software developers sold systems that make such a transfer almost impossible if the doctor and hospital don't have the same vendor. Vendors have also developed back-end systems that require a monthly fee to maintain. If you want to drop that vendor, you might have to hand type all of that information into a new system...