Healthcare and computers, more lobbyist fodder

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.

Resources:

Irrational Exuberance over Electronic Medical Records?

The Best Medical Care in the U.S.

Department of Defense continues to Disappoint

Vendors’ ideas sought for joint DOD-VA e-health record project

* Not really, but they should get lost nonetheless.

4 Responses to Healthcare and computers, more lobbyist fodder

  1. Mike says:

    Prescription drugs: New Tech Places Florida as a Leader in the Nation to Close Pill Mills
    By Micheal P. McManus
    April 26, 2009

    As a Federal Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, I fought the drug war for more than 28 years. After retiring I have come to realize that heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy are not among the most abused drugs anymore. One of the biggest threats in our current war on drugs is prescription medicine.

    According to the DEA, more than 7 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs; that’s more than the number of people abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, ecstasy, and inhalants combined.

    In the 1980’s, Florida was known as the drug capital of our country. A combination of aggressive law enforcement, increased treatment programs and education resulted in a dramatic decline in Florida’s image in the drug war. However, we now find that prescription drugs are emerging as the drug of choice of the 21st century. Once again, Florida is on the front lines — having the reputation of being America’s prescription drug capital.

    So, why is Florida the capital of prescription drug abuse? The answer is simple: our state has failed respond to this 21st century challenge by enacting an effective, cutting edge prescription monitoring database system. Without a database, drug traffickers will continue to take advantage of Florida’s failure to act.

    There are currently 38 states with prescription drug databases. However, these states rely on weak, outdated technology that does not allow for real-time entry of prescribing and dispensing data — meaning days go by before red flags go up on potentially dangerous activity.

    For example, it can be up to two weeks before information is downloaded to a database to evaluate if a person is “doctor shopping” or obtaining multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors. This reporting lag time can mean lives lost.

    Fortunately, our lawmakers now realize the significance of this tool in this new war on drugs. Unfortunately, they are on the verge of adopting this out-of-date system. We can do better, and we must.

    In today’s world we must apply the best technology available to equip law enforcement officers with the information they need to stop prescription fraud.

    We have a unique opportunity to adopt an electronic finger printing system called biometrics. This system uses real-time reporting, is more secure and protects the privacy of law-abiding patients.

    The biometric system is very easy to use — a person can walk in and simply roll their fingerprint and information is immediately available.

    By using this biometric system, we will now have the technology to allow us to identify doctor shoppers in 15 seconds — not 15 days, not 15 hours, but 15 seconds. I’ve seen this technology in action. It works, it is secure and it is what we need to fight this emerging threat.

    If implemented, this system has the potential to bring doctor shopping in Florida to almost a dead stop. This is clearly a unique opportunity for the state legislators to step up and be the leader in fighting the war on drugs.

    Florida lawmakers have a choice: go with a weaker drug protection system and come back in a couple of years to deal with the consequences, or take advantage of the latest technology and become a leader in protecting lives. This system can be used to keep e-medical records without posting them to a website and used by life saving personal to help save your life by getting your medical records in 2 seconds with one scan of your finger!

    For more information call
    800-797-4711

  2. Thanks, Mike, and indeed fingerprint identifiers could prove useful when a patient is out of town and an emergency doctor wants to access their records in the national database. They may be unconscious but the roll of a finger brings up the data.

  3. Mike says:

    Thank you for your reply! As I’m a retired DEA Agent and not a marketing guy can you help point me in a direction to get this type of system noticed? I feel like GOD gave me a way to save thousands of lifes and Billions in Tax dollors and that’s great however I will take it to my grave and never get it to the public. Any Ideas?

  4. Well, I am far from an expert on the issue, though I did write about legalizing drugs here. But there are ads on TV about prescription drugs being a problem, and you might start there. I would Google “legalizing drugs pros and cons” or just “legalizing drugs” and check with some of these groups.

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