Setting the record straight…


I received yet another public scolding from the leadership of the New Brunswick Medical Society recently.  It really is getting a bit tiresome.   “Sit down and shut up” might have worked well for badly-behaved elementary student in the 1960’s, but this is 2014, I am 56, and it’s not working at all for me.

Here’s what Dr. Hansen had to say on March 18:

Provincial EMR program in the news

I was pleased to take questions from the media about our EMR program. With over 250 physicians already enrolled for the program, I believe it is quite likely that we will hit the Department of Health’s estimate of 300 physicians in our first year of operation, which is quite an achievement. The Minister of Health has recently stated that he is open to renegotiating several elements of the Program, which is good news. We look forward to addressing some challenges with the Program with the Department of Health while we move forward with dozens of implementations over the next months. Velante is already the largest EMR provider in the province. Members are reminded that there are only two weeks left to enrol!

I must say that I am personally disappointed at some of the criticisms of the program and more directly, public attacks against the leadership of the NBMS. Some have gone to the media without voicing their concerns to us first; others have made claims that are inaccurate in public fora. There are legitimate concerns about this new and fast-paced program, and some have been raised in proper forums for informed discussion and debate. Some members will not choose to adopt the Velante program, and that is an understandable decision. But to be clear, the EMR program is similar to those in other provinces; costs taxpayers a fraction of some estimates made by members in the media; and no patient’s health information is being kept from any health provider. We look forward to discussions with the Department of Health to improve the program and will endeavour to better explain the Program’s details to members.

Lets just set the record straight on a few issues which seem to be a bit off the mark in the latest President’s Letter from the NBMS and in the imbedded links in the original document:

1)  Velante is NOT a physician-run company.   It has a seven member board of directors.   Two of the directors are doctors.   Three are Accreon executives, one is the CEO of the NBMS (who is NOT a doctor), and one is a UNB business professor.  That’s the way it was in October.   Correct me if I am wrong.

2) I did not go “to the media.”  They came to me.   I turned down invitations for interviews twice before Minister Flemming came out with the news that Velante was failing to meet conscription goals.

3)  I DID go to the NBMS multiple times with concerns about the EMR program.   I got the distinct impression that nobody was listening.  One letter I sent to the President went unanswered for two months.  I finally got a reply when the media started to question the viability of the Velante plan.   The reply I got was more of a reprimand than an answer to my legitimate questions.

4)  At last fall’s NBMS Annual General Meeting, the membership approved a resolution which directed the NBMS to not interfere with doctors using other EMR products interconnecting with Department of Health computers.  The leadership did not follow the direction of the membership and continued to obstruct early adopter of EMR technology.

5)  At the AGM, the CEO of the NBMS denied the existence of the secret Data Sharing Agreement, despite the fact that he had signed the document three months earlier.   We only found out about it after another doctor used right-to-information legislation to get a copy of it.  The CEO has never explained how he was able to sign this agreement and then seem to be unaware of its existence.

6)  Velante is not the the largest EMR vendor in the province.   At last report there were 34 people using a limited version of the advertised product.   Practice Solutions has 60 or more satisfied customers who received no handouts and were happy to pay the going rate for a top-quality, fully-functional EMR.

7)  The Minister of Health did say he was willing to renegotiate the secret Data Sharing Agreement.  What Dr. Hansen fails to mention is that the leadership of the NBMS refuses to even discuss permitting more than one approved software vendor, in defiance of the wishes of the membership.

The bottom line:

Increase in fee-for-service payments to doctors over 4 years (if the contract is ratified):  4%

Increase in NBMS membership dues over the last four years: 39%

Number of taxpayer dollars being offered per year  to convince doctors to jump aboard the S.S. Velante:  $1,500,000

Number of doctors in New Brunswick:   1600

Number of doctors who signed a form indicating they are interested in EMRs:   350

Number of doctors said to be using a limited version of the Velante product:  34

Number of doctors using the Velante product who will tell you that they are satisfied with the Velante product, and that it has lived up to the claims of marketers:   ???

The leadership of the NBMS is pulling out all the stops in its effort to bail out Velante.   The latest move uses taxpayer money – redirected from a general fee increase – to try to convinced the many satisfied Telus Health and Oscar users to jump ship.   Problem is, we don’t want the money.   We like our EMRs, and we can’t be bought.

Make no mistake about it, medicine in New Brunswick is under an all out attack by those who wish to shape healthcare in their own image.   The NBMS, like Nero, fiddles while Rome burns, and Accreon is calling the tune.

By what authority has the leadership of the NBMS transformed our Society from its traditional role as protector of patients and doctors to a public relations company for a failing information technology project?

Remember, not a single New Brunswick doctor was using Intrahealth software prior to the Velante scheme.   The only reason anyone uses it now is because salaried doctors were given the system for free, and a handful of fee-for-service doctors were given thousands  of taxpayer dollars as an incentive to adopt the system.  At least one Saint John family doctor has been offered the Velante system for free, because he trains a lot of residents, and Velante clearly subscribes to the “get ’em young and bend them to your will” philosophy.

Any reasonable person would conclude that a product that cannot sell itself on its merits and survive without government subsidy is not much of a product.   Yet this is exactly the sort of product that the NBMS has chosen to offer us as the ONLY authorized software package in the provincial EMR system.

There are better systems available, but our Medical Society doesn’t want us to use them, and is willing to throw money at the problem until doctors either knuckle under to their will, or the Society is bankrupt.

Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off.


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