Jonathan Bush on MU: A big joke that is actively unproductive

CHICAGO--athenahealth’s Jonathan Bush had some harsh words for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), Meaningful Use (MU) and interoperability when speaking to Clinical Innovation + Technology during the 2015 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition.

When asked about the recent hearings on interoperability, Bush wondered how Elizabeth Warren knew what to ask, that she was so upset and that her reaction was so visceral. “There’s a level of awareness. They knew a lot.” That awareness, however, is a double-edged sword because “this is a warning shot.” The Senate committee is saying that if the healthcare community does do something that works, something will be mandated, he said.

When asked about interoperability, Bush said the term has been “beat up so bad, I don’t know if anyone knows what it means anymore.” But, “preventing patients from getting their information is borderline immoral.”

Bush reserved his most critical remarks for the MU program. He said the ONC should have taken responsibility for the problem in its information blocking report. “They did even more damage by dumbing down Stage 2,” he said, referring to the change in the proposed that would require providers to have just one patient view, download and transmit data. “Fifth graders could do it. Meaningful Use is a big, fat joke. It’s actively unproductive and harmful. It created monopoly power. It was an unbelievably bad idea” which he attributed to the combination of the naivety and arrogance of those who developed the program.

Bush predicted that ONC will become a low-level bureaucracy and MU will die out and “become noise we’ll all have to pay for and deal with.”  

On a more positive note, Bush said it’s too early to know how big of an impact the upcoming Apple Smart Watch and ResearchKit will have on healthcare but “nobody ever predicted the next great thing.” Athenahealth is one of several vendors working on patient-facing tools to leverage the new technology because “I didn’t want to be the guy who’s wrong.”