I had a bit of an epiphany the other day as I drove along one of New Brunswick’s back roads. An epiphany that was every bit as much as a jolt as hitting one of our famous wheel-swallowing potholes.
What if I have got it all wrong?
What if the CEO of the NBMS is not a conniving, self-serving, duplicitous pawn of I.T. profiteers?
What if the Minster of Health really is as heartless and mean-spirited as the leadership of the NBMS implied last year?
What if I, and others like me who are shut out by New Brunswick’s asinine EMR monopoly, am simply a pawn in a vicious game designed to weaken the province’s doctors and bankrupt their professional society?
It could be, and here’s why.
The New Brunswick Medical Society, like all provincial medical societies, has professed an interest in developing a provincial electronic medical program for years. They have seen how others in other jurisdictions have failed, running up enormous costs with very little to show for it. Accordingly, until recently they had proceeded slowly and with appropriate caution.
Other provincial health departments have been stung with the heavy cost of implementing a universal EMR program, while simultaneously deriving little benefit in terms of lower health care costs.
What if the Minister of Health, recognizing that there is federal money available from the Canada Health Infoway, decided to use that money to bait a trap for the hated NBMS? Having seen the disasters that had befallen provincial governments in places like Ontario, if he could somehow convince the NBMS that they should lead the way in the implementation of a provincial EMR program, then sweeten the deal with federal bucks, convince naive doctors that they should select a sole EMR vendor whose product is almost guaranteed to be unpopular with the bulk of NB doctors, then encourage the NBMS to buy a nice new office building to house all the sales, support, and marketing folk, and take out a huge bank loan to support it all… well, you can see where this is going to end up.
This is precisely what has happened. The NBMS selected an EMR vendor which not a single New Brunswick doctor was using, and simultaneously slammed the door in the faces of early adopters of systems like Practice Solutions, Nightengale, Oscar, Wolf, and other popular choices. They bought the new palace on Alison Blvd (then couldn’t sell the old place on York St), took out a huge bank loan, and now are scrambling to find a way to pay off their debts.
NBMS member fees have gone up substantially in the past two years to fund this folly.
As an unexpected bonus, in the mind of the minister, are people like me. Ostracized by our own professional organization. Shunned and ignored by the leadership. Now forced into a role we did not want, fifth columnists fighting those who should be providing wise leadership. I would be surprised if the Minister can sleep at night, snorting and chuckling gleefully at the prospect of doctors infighting.
This is a perfect storm for the Minister of Health. The NBMS took the bait and now are saddled with a multimillion dollar boondoggle which is going to bankrupt the Society. A monopoly EMR, which if it survives, will bleed doctors to feed Accreon corporate profits for years to come in a never-ending web of servitude from which there can be no escape.
I have to hand it to Ted Flemming. I didn’t think he was this smart. But he is. He is a master puppeteer, and he has NBMS CEO Anthony Knight dancing at the end of his strings like a drunken Pinocchio.
Now, having exhausted all reasonable means to achieve justice for early adopters of EMR technology, having sent letters to the president of the NBMS which have gone unanswered, having been lied to by the CEO of the New Brunswick Medical Society, having been manipulated by the Minister of Health to undermine my colleagues, having, in short, been used and abused by almost everyone involved in this sad, sad state of affairs, I am saying now, enough. I am done.
Let the NBMS carry on with their failed, ill-conceived EMR monopoly. Let those doctors who wish, sign on to the new program. I will continue with my EMR of choice. NBMS fees will continue for rise and there will be great gnashing of teeth when people realize what a terrible mistake the Velante program has been. But by then it will be too late. Accreon will buy out the NBMS share in Velante and save the Society from bankruptcy, but leave it crippled and weak. Doctors who have bought into the Velante solution will be enslaved by it. User fees will rise and technical support will all but vanish.
And there won’t be a damn thing anyone can do about it.
In closing I will say to the leadership of the New Brunswick Medical Society, Velante, Accreon, and the Minister of Health, it has been a slice. The combination of duplicity, ignorance, greed, and callousness has been truly mind boggling. You deserve each other.
The real losers in this debacle are the people of New Brunswick. Handled properly and honestly, a provincial EMR system could have been a thing of beauty, something which would improve patient care and reduce health care costs.
Sadly, in New Brunswick, it ain’t gonna happen.