Magical Thinking on Health IT from

Annette M. Boyle, MBA has an article in the journal that exhibits a severe form of fallacious thinking, approaching magical thinking. It's this type of thinking that gets patients injured and killed:

Health information technology: Better in long term despite short-term safety risks

Responding to a new report that says health information technology (HIT) is creating some short-term safety issues, technology experts say physicians should remember one immutable fact: The new systems are far less dangerous than the old paper-based systems still in use in many practices.

Consider that first paragraph in light of the second:

Although the magnitude of the problem remains unknown, “serious errors involving these technologies—including medication dosing errors, failure to detect fatal illnesses, and treatment delays due to poor human-computer interactions or loss of data—have led to several reported patient deaths and injuries,” the Institute of Medicine (IOM) said in a news release.

So, "technology experts" proffer that a technology where the "magnitude of the problem remains unknown" are "far less dangerous than the old paper-based systems still in use in many practices."

Because they say so, right?


This is why "technology experts" need to be kept on a very short leash. They cannot think logically, even regarding such a simple issue such as this.

They claim as an "immutable fact" (that "physicians should remember") a comparison that has very little data underlying it? This is risible, shameful, patronizing in the extreme, insulting, and an example of the dangers of the invasion of medicine by computer technicians and salespeople.

The only "immutable fact" is, if you don't know the magnitude of risk, because it's - ah - unknown, you cannot (or should not) make statements about that very magnitude of risk. (This is K-12 level logic, and more towards the "K" than the 12.)

Actually, the evidence for significant risks beyond paper - far beyond paper - come from incidents like I've described on this blog. A very recent example is my Nov. 4, 2011 post "Lifespan (Rhode Island): Yet another health IT "glitch" affecting thousands - that, of course, caused no patient harm that they know of - yet."

Doctors are not in the habit of leaving off suffixes for slow release or long acting drugs (e.g., XR, SR), but a few lines of code can - and did - affect thousands at just one healthcare system. This was a potentially lethal error. Health IT can greatly amplify risk in a manner that paper simply cannot.

People who proffer gross illogic in medicine need to do society a big favor and simply remove themselves from any roles that affect medical care, patients, and medical ethics. If they know better, and are simply spinning their statements to promote sales, the need for such individuals to be distanced from healthcare is even more acute.

If they don't clean up their act, either way, they may find themselves on the defendant's witness stand, where such illogic will be ripped to shreds by plaintiff's attorneys.

-- SS