The Worst Idea Ever

One day when I was about fourteen years old, I bought a bunch of fireworks (rockets mostly) from that shady guy who roams the halls of every high school selling contraband. I went over to my friend Don's house in the afternoon and we really wanted to shoot some of them off - but it was raining outside, and we didn't want to stand outside getting wet.

"I have a great idea," I said. "We can open the windows of the dining room and launch the rockets from INSIDE the house - that way we'll stay dry." Pure adolescent genius, I tell you.

Now, you may have a sense of where this is going. Suffice to say that we spent a couple of hours desperately trying to get exhaust marks and the smell of sulphur out of Don's mom's super-fancy Oriental rug, and I was really glad that we tried this at his house, not mine. Looking back over the last forty years of my life, I have often referred to this as the Worst Idea Ever.

But today the great indoor fireworks episode has competition, in the form of a truly insane HIT bill up for consideration in the New Jersey State Legislature. Bill 3934 would make it ILLEGAL to sell any "health information technology product" that is not certified by CCHIT:

2. (New section) a. No person or entity, either directly or indirectly, shall sell, offer for sale, give, furnish, or otherwise distribute to any person or entity in this State a health information technology product that has not been certified by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology.

As used in this section, "health information technology product" means a system, program, application, or other product that is based upon technology which is used to electronically collect, store, retrieve, and transfer clinical, administrative, and financial health information.

b. A person or entity that violates the provisions of subsection a. of this section shall be liable to a civil penalty of not less than $1,000 for the first violation, not less than $2,500 for the second violation, and $5,000 for the third and each subsequent violation, to be collected pursuant to the "Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999," P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).

Frankly, I am just too stunned to really say much of anything about this disaster of a bill. It is actually difficult to think of another action that would be more effective at screwing up healthcare.

Look --- there are plenty of real debates to be had around HIT. I believe the evidence does not support the idea that CCHIT certification has or will stimulate adoption, but there are reasonable arguments on both sides. Happy to have that conversation. But there is simply no sensible position that would criminalize innovation in an industry that desperately --- desperately --- needs new ideas.

Please, New Jersey, do your citizens a favor and just make this go away.

We never were able to fix the carpet.