Is there a law of diminishing returns in policymaking?

By Jeff Rowe
10:09 AM
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How far should government go to make good things happen?

It being a Friday in August, and confident that readers are just aching for a question of political philosophy to ponder until they can get back to the office on Monday, we thought we’d offer the above, which, truth be told, is what we keep coming back to after reviewing some recent news and observations.

First, there’s this piece from the ubiquitous Dr. John Halamka. Writing about the potential impact of the recently proposed Accounting of Disclosures regs, he notes, quite sensibly, that “we need to keep in mind that every regulation has a cost in dollars, time, and complexity.”

Next up is ONC’s apparent desire to set metadata standards, which, some suggest, could become part of MU Stage 2. As an early step in that direction, ONC has asked for comments on potential standards, and to prime the pump for the comments it has asked 20 questions to which it is asking providers to respond.

Needless to say, perhaps, the questions don’t quite lend themselves readily to simple “Yes” or “No” responses.

Finally, a member of Congress has asked HHS to “consider a study of health IT's benefits and cost effectiveness, with a focus on gauging medical error rates.”

The problem here, as we suggested just this week, is that the government has already committed billions of dollars based on the encouraging promise, if not quite the fully-realized reality, of those benefits. So conclusive studies probably won’t be available for at least a few more years and several billion more dollars.

One way or another, all of these issues are “issues” because of the assumption that government must play a consistently proactive role in both the transition to, and regulation of, health IT.

But is that really the case?

We look forward to your answers on Monday.