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[Do] eHRs Fail to Improve Healthcare Quality?

I told you so … wow! That felt really, really good!

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS 

If you haven’t been following the bad news for electronic health records that has broken in the popular media in the last few days, you may be unaware of recent studies that are about as welcome in Washington DC as Wikileaks revelations of diplomatic farts – but much more serious. Healthcare reform itself is in the balance, and President Obama’s credibility with mandates is already shot.

Records will show that a few politically-incorrect troublemakers knew all along that EHRs will fail to save money or improve the quality of healthcare – ever – unless doctors and patients are involved in their development. This troublemaker warned dentists 5 years ago about how HIT stakeholder and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich deceived naïve ADA Delegates about benefits of eHRs to dental patients. In turn, 3 years later, the ADA’s HIT stakeholder, Dr. Robert Ahlstrom, deceived Bush’s HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt with biased, self-serving testimony he gave to the NCVHS. (See “Dr. Robert H. Ahlstrom’s controversial HIPAA testimony” that I posted in 2008.)


Do you still not agree that long ago, I told you so?

At a time when President Obama’s healthcare reform is teetering between the Houses, just wait until lawmakers catch the news I’m bringing to you hours, days or even weeks ahead of Fox News: Transparency just caused a huge chunk of anticipated funding for reform to evaporate like American’s property values. After billions of stimulus dollars have been gleefully spent benefiting influential healthcare stakeholders rather than principals, the bi-partisan feel-good digital fantasy is bankrupt. Pop goes the bubble.

Although there have been minor news reports of growing disappointment in eHRs for years, the results of two recent studies by Public Library of Sciences (PLoS) and Stanford clearly expose the lack of value of eHRs for Americans. We’ve been had.

The WSJ 

On January 21, the Wall Street Journal posted an article titled, “Study Looks For, Can’t Find Much Evidence of E-Health’s Benefits,” by Katherine Hobson.


Hobson writes: “With the U.S. and the U.K. heading full steam towards electronic medical records and other health IT applications, how much evidence is there that they improve care?

Not a whole lot, according to a review of existing research on the topic published this week by PLoS Medicine. While governments and other proponents are claiming that digitizing health records can save lives and increase efficiency, the review’s ‘key conclusion is that these claims need to be scrutinized before people invest quite large sums of money in these technologies,’ Aziz Sheikh, lead author of the study and a professor of primary care research and development at the Center for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, tells the Health Blog.’”

US News & World Report

And; only hours ago, US News & World Report posted a story titled “Electronic Record-Keeping Alone May Not Boost Health Care.” (no byline).


“Electronic health records have so far done little to improve the quality of health care in the United States, a new study states.

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine analyzed data on use of electronic records from 2005 through 2007. The data came from a nationwide physician survey that encompassed nearly 250,000 outpatient visits.”

The ADA 

So how does the truth about eHRs affect ADA leadership’s stubborn push for paperless practices in dentistry? Well, if as a trusting ADA member, you haven’t already swallowed the propaganda, now wouldn’t be a good time to convert to paperless.


Though my unpopular but accurate statements about eDRs eventually got me in secret trouble with vetted, anonymous Texas Dental Association officials, I predicted this week’s bad news years ago on the TDA online forum. Unfortunately, my warnings to other TDA members about the ADA’s biggest blunder in history were censored by the TDA Executive Director without warning or explanation. Why? She isn’t accountable to anyone and “Image is everything.” (ADA/IDM slogan).

Just how difficult can it be to recognize that eHRs are inefficient in dental practices for simple, common sense reasons? First of all, dental records which involve prevention and treatment of disease in the lower third of the face rarely include laboratory test results like medical records which concern the whole body. In addition, dentists maintain tenfold fewer thin patient charts than physicians’ thick ones. So if the value of eHRs are questionable for hospital care involving millions of charts, I think dentists are safe to ignore Presidential eHR mandates. The bottleneck in dental offices isn’t the front desk, it’s the dentist … or at least it should be. As for thumbing your nose at a Presidential mandate, I wouldn’t get too concerned. Obama also mandated that the prison at Guantanamo Bay was to be closed over a year ago. It didn’t happen, and nobody went to jail.

Unfunded Mandates 

Unfunded mandates just don’t carry the respect they once did when they were less common and actually made sense. Considering the absurdity of eHRs in dentistry, worse things could happen for trusting, clueless Americans.

Those who represent our concerns in government probably don’t yet realize that in the last four days, the price of healthcare reform skyrocketed even further out of reach, and we simply cannot borrow any more money from our grandchildren just to throw it away on expensive hi-tech crap. As for myself, I’m sending this ME-P to my national and state representatives: Cornyn, Hutchison, Barton, Burgess, Harris, Davis, Patrick and Veasey, I hope you will contact your representatives as well. The Internet makes it so easy these days to educate those who would otherwise determine our future based on deception from healthcare stakeholders.


I publicly challenge Dr. Robert Ahlstrom, who is currently a member of the ADA Council on Dental Practice and chair of the Members Advisory Group to an Internet discussion concerning electronic health records in dentistry. It’s the same unanswered challenge I issued to the influential dentist over 3 years ago: I still say electronic dental records are an expensive hobby paid for by dental patients in higher fees, and they do nothing to improve patient care. What do you have to say about that, Dr. Robert Ahlstrom? You know you’re going to have to face me again and again, so please don’t disappoint ADA members by continuing to hide. It makes the whole ADA look cowardly.


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Is the Texas Dental Association too Authoritarian?

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About Employee Mary Kay Linn

[By Darrell Kellus Pruitt; DDS]

Texas Dental Association Executive-Director Mary Kay Linn seems to think that TDA members owe her respect for some reason. I don’t see it. You get what you give TDA employee Mary Kay Linn.

Link: TDA response to Pruitt

I’ve attached the partially answered, authoritarian response from the TDA. I think it speaks for itself. And, I posted the following Twitterpoem today.

Mary Kay Linn, the executive director of the TDA just doesn’t get it.

@theTDA, I received the responses to some of the 30+ questions that were invited by the TDA. Linn’s evasion is transparent and regrettable.

@theTDA, when a Judicial Committee member delivered the PDF, he said Linn told him to tell me that “This is it. No more questions.”


He added that: “There will be no follow up responses and that the very busy TDA staff spent far too much time on my questions already.” 

TDA Executive Director Mary Kay Linn, this will not end well for you.


How responsive was the TDA; just right, under or overwhelming when pushed? Or, was Dr. Pruitt over-the-top? Does he expect too much from his professional association? Does almost every DDS except him know that the “emperor has no clothes?” Or, is he one member with critical thinking skills instead of blind [misplaced] faith?

Finally, is there an analogy here for the AMA, ADA, APMA, ANA, AOA, etc? Are the aging command-control medical association monopolies crashing down in the era of internet connectivity and professional networking? Do we need new norms and etiquette models of communication? Please opine.


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Kathleen Sebelius Please Pay Attention to Dr. Darrell Pruitt

Deferred Investment [An Incentive to Access]

By D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS

On Friday, the editor of the Chicago Dental Society’s [CDS] blog “Open Wide” posted a progressive, brief article titled, “State of Illinois offers incentive for dentists to treat Medicaid patients” (no byline).


CDS says that last week, Governor Pat Quinn signed a law which allows Illinois dentists who treat Medicaid patients to accept payment deposited into a tax deferred investment portfolio instead of the traditional delayed, unpredictable payments that offer no tax advantages – only headaches.

Illinois Governor Quinn is a vast improvement over his predecessor. What was his name? He’s gone on to become a TV personality …. Oh yeah. Blagojevich!

I don’t know about you, but for me, Quinn’s incentive to access could offer not only more relief for those who cannot afford dental care in Texas, but it could also be a more or less painless way for dentists to fund IRAs – rather than having to do it at the last minute like I’ll do in a few months – just like every year. Instead of having an IRA hanging over my head, all I would have to do is donate my skills to help a few more people every now and then. That’s noble, charitable duty, friends – even with the Quinn incentive.

I especially respect current Medicaid dentists who work for nothing at all on the more profitable days.

To HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Pay attention. You only think you run the show.

The nations’ dentists you need aren’t being paid what they deserve, yet they put up with expensive and threatening CMS bureaucracy and struggle on – simply because they wish to ease suffering everyone else chooses to ignore.

Medicare dentists are American heroes to be sure. But let me warn you, Ms. Sebelius, they will turn on you hard and cold if you try to push them around. It’s time that you welcome real dentists to the bargaining table instead of ambitious ADA-approved stakeholders. You need us more than we need you, Ms. Sebelius. Forget the ADA. That is a foundation on which we can build … or not.

And this is for my stunned dentist colleagues in Texas who cross the street to ignore grandiose special bastards like me. Most of you detest the messy stuff I drag around, but nevertheless can’t stop watching from a safe distance. Rather than get your own hands messy, most of you simply pay the TDA to quietly and ineffectively hide or delay huge approaching problems. So what’s the trade-off? To remain “In the Loop,” you must obediently take up your differences with leadership in the approved, professional manner through designated ADA representatives. And. that’s so cute.

Now that you read about Quinn’s incentive, don’t you also hope that a TDA committee has already approved a draft of a deferred investment proposal to be offered to state lawmakers as soon as possible? After all, similar plans are already being tried in not only Illinois, but in four other states as well: Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Hope as we may, nimrods, I fear those in Austin who should be paying attention to legislative opportunities such as this only heard about Quinn’s incentive to access law a minute or so ago at best.

Of Face Book Accounts

Both the TDA and the ADA desperately need functional Facebook accounts like Chicago Dental Society’s. By the way, it is the CDS which will be hosting their annual mid-winter dental conference in Chicago – reliably a tremendous meeting. This year it is Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 25-27, 2010 in the McCormick Place West Building.


The TDA’s Facebook Wall is pristine white and graffiti-ready, and the spray paint is free to any artist who walks by. Not unexpectedly, it’s a mess. Nobody is joining, and whoever is in charge of managing the site is busy deleting unacceptable comments from a jerk who has no respect for anyone. (It’s not me). The TDA Facebook is in trouble, and it has been suggested that it should be shut down. It is indeed an embarrassment.


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Here’s something we’ll all laugh about later: The one dentist in Texas who could have sent the rogue artist on down the road (me), was kicked off for badmouthing BCBSTX and the NPI number as well as 13 other listed allegations, including posting pornography. I’ll let the TDA Director of Membership explain that and the other allegations if you are curious. I was not provided access to the evidence on which the sudden and uncontestable revocation of my TDA benefit was based. But there’s still hope because a friend of mine resented the way I was treated and complained to the TDA using the approved channels. That was 2 months ago. I wonder how well that one is progressing from the Austin City dump.

The ADA Facebook is no better. Over 1600 fans have piled up at the door waiting for the ADA’s grand opening, yet nothing is happening. What do you think is going on there?

If you’ve missed hearing from me for the last 2 weeks and have an inquisitive mind, I’ve been pursuing answers for such questions about ADA and TDA transparency on Twitter. They call me Proots.


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Don’t Tread on Me – Obama

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Bite Me – CMS

[By D. Kellus Pruitt; DDS]pruitt

Shy but proud Texas Dental Association leaders still direct employees to encourage members to volunteer for permanent, mandated National Provider Identifier numbers. Why? “Just ‘cause.”

As part of an agreement the TDA made with the state to help politicians out of a lawsuit they brought upon themselves for not providing adequate dental care for the poor in the state, TDA leaders followed someone’s bad advice to encourage Texas dentists to accept CHIP (Medicaid) – which requires dentists to have arbitrary 10 digit NPI numbers to participate.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the highest respect for dentists who treat the poor for pay that doesn’t even cover overhead. That is compassion to a fault – even before CMS investigators arrive with subpoenas based on vague, nuisance complaints from disappointed patients, disgruntled employees and hungry competitors. Getting even with rich, greedy, or otherwise mouthy dentists has never been easier because I’ve heard that CMS intends to investigate all complaints.

Yes, low pay is only part of the nasty package that TDA officials are officially discouraged from discussing with membership – even as they beg for us to sign up for CHIP and “do our part to return our debt to society by helping those who cannot care for themselves.” So who would dare question the reason for the faux sentiment expressed by a long string of TDA Presidents? That would be me.

There are simply so many other charitable ways of publicly and privately returning help to the community that don’t add to the risk of donating one’s skill. Even if one does not help local free clinics, how hard can it be to quietly give away care, Doc, in these hard times? It’s just between you and God anyway, isn’t it? One simply enters N/C in the fee column. Confidentially I sometimes get hugs that so far can be neither controlled nor taxed.

It appears to me that CMS is arguably more influential with TDA leaders than common TDA members like me. If I am correct, this means that dentistry is at risk of being overrun by authoritarian bureaucrats hired by ambitious politicians who often promise more than they can deliver before ducking accountability for earthly bad decisions. The business model even reminds me of the TDA’s.

So now that the TDA played its hand with regard to its fondness for BCBSTX and the NPI number, what does it mean for Texas dentists if Obama’s imminent “Public Plan Option” turns into “Medicaid for All” – as some naively hope and others justifiably fear? This week, the AMA gave its support to the Public Option. Will the ADA be next? 

Dentistry unhurried is value-added service. One cannot get rich at it, but it’s an honorable living.

Regardless of whether you approve of my tactless vitriol or not, I have to say that when it comes down to feeding my family, even this special bastard could be silenced if there is no longer a market on the east side of Fort Worth for dentistry unhurried. Especially if it meant a monthly visit by CMS inspectors like Dr. Annie Bukacek is going through right now. Like me, she also gives her patients the time they deserve. But unlike me, she doesn’t have time to pick fights with shy bullies who hide behind employees.

I’ll get to the physician’s story in a moment. But first, just how important are secrets to the leaders of the nation’s preeminent non-profit dental organization? It’s important enough that many in the ADA House of Delegates want the power to mete out punishment to fellow officers who cannot keep their mouths shut. Some of those we elected even want to make the sanctions retroactive to deal with colleagues who have already broken the traditional unwritten good ol’ boy code of stoic conduct. At the same time, the TDA is begging dentists in the state to run for ADA office – starting on the local level. Why do you think dentists in Texas don’t want to get involved? Nobody accepts delivery from the cluetrain in Austin. It probably stops there at least a couple of times each week day.

I copied below three of the ADA Delegates’ referred resolutions from Judy Jakush’s November 2 ADANews article, “Delegates vote on Association business matters,”


1] Res. 70 states that if any member of the ADA, including delegation member, council, committee or task force member, or Board of Trustees member has been acknowledged as breaking the attorney-client privilege or executive session, that member is, at a minimum, barred from ever again participating in an attorney-client or executive session within the ADA. This shall include such acts which have been acknowledged as occurring prior to the enactment of this resolution.

2] Res. 67 would specify that candidates for elective or appointive officers may not have had any sanctions bestowed upon them by the Association. Also referred was Res. 67RC, which would direct that anyone found by the Committee on Credentials, Rules and Order to have violated his or her duties to the Association would be disqualified from holding elective or appointive office.

3] Res. 68 was referred to the Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs for report to the 2010 House with recommendations for Bylaws changes. The proposal calls for CEBJA to review the Bylaws and craft language that would define the mechanism for sanctions up to and including removal from office of a delegation member or Board of Trustee member if there is found to be cause for removal as shall be defined. That cause, at a minimum, should include those causes as delineated currently for council members. Res. 68 also calls for a method for fair and impartial hearings to be recommended and the establishment of an authorized House committee that can be held on an ad interim basis between annual sessions of the House of Delegates with authority to determine and impose any such sanctions deemed appropriate. 

Remember, the ADA is a non-profit, professional organization whose only purpose for existence is to serve dental patients through dentist members who support it with dues. When one reads these and other resolutions in Jakush’s article, it looks like ADA President Dr. Ron Tankersley is running the Pentagon. We’re only dentists for crying out loud!

Dr. Annie Bukacek’s 6-month battle with CMS

This morning I read what has turned out to be a popular article titled “Investigators descend on doctor,” written by Candace Chase, writing for the Daily Inter Lake which serves northwest Montana.


“Dr. Annie Bukacek of Hosanna Health Care in Kalispell was surprised when a 30- to 40-foot-long command-post vehicle pulled up unannounced last week, along with a posse of state and federal health-care fraud investigators.”

“Bukacek points out that anyone – a disgruntled ex-employee or patient or someone who doesn’t like a physician’s looks or politics – could trigger an investigation and cost a physician as well as the government thousands of dollars.” 

I wonder what would happen if a dentist openly taunts CMS leaders? As I previously mentioned, it is Dr. Bukacek who claims, “They said they have to followup every allegation made.” 

When all American dentists are required to volunteer for NPI numbers and can no longer be legally paid in cash at the time of service, we’ll all be hung by an ADA-approved mistake of historic proportions. I suggest that ADA members take time right now to jot down names so that when judgment day inevitably arrives, one will be prepared to hold accountable the ADA employees who recommended the numbers. After reading how ADA leaders are hunkering down, it looks like going through employees will probably be the only way to touch the bosses they bravely try to shield.

Oh yeah. I posted the 5th of almost 30 comments that so far follow Candace Chase’s provocative article:

“Dr. Annie Bukacek’s experience is why as a US citizen in the land of the free, I simply refuse to do business with the US government. Bite me, CMS. Did you hear me? I said bite me!”


It’s not likely that I’ll regret those words because I am powerless to stop myself from typing them anyway.


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