We’re Listening To Both Sides Of The EHR Story

Glen_TullmanGlenn Tullman was the CEO of AllScripts, an EHR company, until his departure last year. We believe his latest op/ed piece illuminates the peril of government inserting itself into business. Sure, they come in with good intentions, but they end up stifling the quality of products on the free market.

We wrote about Allscripts’ EHR meltdown earlier this month. Their product was an admitted failure (insofar as they discontinued any updates), with negligible customer service and deplorable training. Things were grim. Doctors had opted into a poor software program with hopeful promises from the company, who DID NOT DELIVER IN A TIMELY MANNER. But why would doctors get bamboozled so easily? In part because CMS funded up to $44,000 per doctor who met Congress’s guidelines for “Meaningful Use” incentives.

And here’s where things get tricky. Because if there’s one “company” who does not understand running a doctor’s office, or keeping track of patient records, it is THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. On one hand, it’s unfortunate that AllScripts delivered a faulty software product and did a poor job in training doctors to use it. It’s bad that they couldn’t get their product to ramp up to a functional, timesaving program. As the story went, they abandoned the project entirely, leaving invested doctors out to dry along with the bitterness of wasted time and energy.

It’s natural to point fingers at AHS leadership. Why didn’t you do a better job delivering on your promise, CEO Tullman? But it’s hard to aim those fingers at the real culprit when corporations and congress collide. And when we came across Tullman’s recent op/ed piece we were surprisingly impressed. He outlined what he believes Congress is doing wrong and what’s holding back widespread EHR adoption. Look at it from his angle, though: he wants to make money providing a service to AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. Meanwhile, he adamantly opposes Congress’s belief that too many benefits have been paid out to hospitals for using software that didn’t attain “meaningful use.” But this is apropos, because his was one of many crappy products on the market.

Think about it: what’s his motivation to truly innovate when someone else will get paid for buying his product? When you write it that simply it does sound suspect. Why not make a legitimately stellar product that doctors are begging for? In Tullman’s case his company got in over their head and had to drop out entirely. But maybe they wouldn’t have gotten there if Congress hadn’t intervened the way they had.

His piece had a couple other quotes worth mentioning. For one, he’s got issues with the government:

“Typical of Washington, while critics complain, they present no viable alternative. What should we have the health care industry do instead? Do we really want doctors to go back to filing patient information in charts that can’t be backed up, easily read, easily shared, analyzed for improved care or submitted efficiently for payment. Prescription pads (and physicians’ illegible scrawls on them) could make a return.“

He also believes “Electronic health records will only get better as more physicians, nurses, and caregivers log on, as vendors become more open, and as information is more widely shared.“

So although Tullman hasn’t revolutionized medicine, his rhetoric echoes our sentiments! Maybe because they’re sensible. Make a solid product for small niche, like we’re doing for concierge medicine. Build momentum one doctor and one improved patient relationship at a time. See what works and what doesn’t. Then over time maybe Atlas.md becomes THE EHR PROGRAM EVERYONE USES. But we want to say it loud and clear: Federal subsidies WILL NOT SOLVE THE EHR CRISIS. Interoperability is a huge hurdle to overcome. So we’re bringing our attention to the small details, something we have a chance to influence positively.

On a separate but related note, we wanted to bring attention to a recent article about Glenn Tullman, post-AllScripts. Tullman has his hands in many impactful endeavors. His bio reads more like Bruce Wayne than something any real human being could actually get around to in a lifetime (seriously, the man just opened a glass blowing studio for his son, and spends time there). We think it’s worth highlighting a key difference between AllScripts and our office, AtlasMD, and our web-based practice management software, atlas.md: We have ONE goal in mind, improved patient care.

Does anyone remember the quote, “How can you save someone if you can’t save yourself first?” To us Tullman’s type of spread-thin corporate ambition could be exemplary of a larger problem facing our nation—the need to help EVERYONE in order to profit, instead of helping a few for effective sustainability.