No, patient benefit isn’t part of the discussion…
By Jack E. Lohman
Okay, so doctors can’t type and prefer scribbles, even if only they can read their writing. And they don’t want to change. Shame on them.
But that’s not why the healthcare industry is opposing the digitizing of medical records. Like everything else, it has to do with cash dollars. Profits!
A well-run national patient database would have many benefits, including saving tens of thousands of patient lives from medical errors and conflicting drugs. And it would eliminate the millions of dollars we spend on duplicate testing.
But thereby lies the rub. Those duplicate tests are performed by hospitals and clinics and add substantially to their bottom-line profits. Who in their right mind would oppose profits?
And hospitals have developed their own in-house systems and lock out other clinics and hospitals from accessing them, because that opens the possibility of losing the patient and even the doctors and all of their patients to a hospital down the street. That’s a natural jealousy in the for-profit world, but it is not in the patient’s best interest.
So now we have a privatized system with hundreds of companies developing their own systems to market to the tens of thousands of hospitals and clinics. When in fact the best approach would be to expand the system taxpayers have already paid for, the VA’s VistA open-source database system.
The government should either support the VA’s effort or contract the job to one qualified company to complete and pass back for free hospital and clinic use. Pay off all the other campaign contributors to get lost*, but we need one common database.
Picture this: your first visit to a doctor requires that you sit in front of a computer and answer a lengthy questionnaire about your health and drug intake, both legal and illegal. Obviously a very strict security system (a second database linked to the first) must be established and only you and your physicians have your password (maybe even multiple passwords for increased security). Aside from your identifying data, all other data is entered into the national database.
Now doctors can compare their decisions with the national successes of other doctors and make decisions in the best interest of the patient (which they call “best practices”). And patients have the same access and can judge the outcomes of their current or future doctor (“transparency”).
No longer must patients rely only on doctor personality or perceived skills. They can find out if he’s effective before even going to him. And whether he over-utilizes a particular test that is ineffective, or over-prescribes a particular drug compared to all other physicians. Or whether a hospital has an over-abundance of infections or medical errors.
Is that more than the health care industry wants us to know?
How does political money enter into this? If the industry doesn’t want a clean solution, just whose side will the politicians take? (You know my answer. 🙂 )
It is absolutely amazing that America has so many people willing to block effective health care reform, all to pad their personal wealth. Especially politicians.
* Not really, but they should get lost nonetheless.