More than 214 people have been diagnosed with aspergillus meningitis after having received an injection of the drug Methylprednisolone. Tests showed the drug was contaminated with a fungus. As of this writing, there have been 15 deaths in 15 states. The current CDC numbers are here.
Meanwhile, and perhaps previously unrelated, there's been another contamination event going on related to healthcare information technology. In the media, and specifically an article in The New York Times and an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, the topic of healthcare delivery in general, and the value of a policy that provides funding for healthcare IT has heated up with the political season.
Two thoughtful and accomplished professors, Ross Koppel and Stephen Soumerai, wrote the opinion piece. In it, they stated that the benefits of healthcare information technology are wildly overblown and represent a fanciful initiative that should be shut down.
A number of knowledgeable healthcare IT experts have identified a series of flaws in their reasoning. They include the failure to consider the time frame of expected benefits relative to the tests the authors were applying.
Physicians Peter Basch and Michael Zaroukian wrote a comprehensive 6-part blog that challenges the position of Koppel and Soumerai. The blog’s overview is here, with links to each installment.
In essence, these experts were asserting that the professors were contaminating the public discourse, framing a debate of the facts where no debate truly exists. So let's look into this meningitis outbreak and its healthcare IT implications.
The scientific promise of medicine is that we can identify, predict and mitigate disease, either with the impact of primary prevention, limiting the condition from happening in first place, or to cure or mitigate the impact of disease. The intent, of course, is to maintain as much function as possible, prolong healthy life, and reduce or avoid pain in the process.