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30 January 2009

Electronic Medical Records

I'm not exactly up and up on what's going on in health care in the US, but apparently about 75% of physicians and hospitals here still keep all their records on paper... that seems kind of ridiculous. Assuming that being able to look up a patients history, medications taken, and possible drug allergies might be useful. Well, it is.

"The researchers found that hospitals that rated highly on automated note taking had a 15 percent decrease in the odds that a patient would die while hospitalized. Hospitals with highly rated decision-support systems also had 20 percent lower complication rates. Researchers found that electronic systems reduced costs by about $100 to $500 per admission."

This is a bit perplexing to me. The free market accounts for all variables whether you take them into account or not. Which is also what makes forecasting it so hard. In the case of health care it would seem like the benefit of lower costs, less complications, and less deaths would outweigh the costs of hiring IT professionals and keeping digital records. So why doesn't the health industry adopt this technology like the rest of the (socialized medicine) world? Didn't we invent this stuff?

The only answer I can really come up with is that old non-tech savvy hospital and insurance company business people do not fully appreciate the advantages of computers.

Maybe privacy concerns? I'm about the biggest privacy advocate there is, but not when dealing with my doctor. If they ask what drugs I do I tell them. If I get rolled in unconscious from a car accident I want the ER staff to know my history. Look at it this way, if you ask a stranger in any country what they do for a living and they say that they're a M.D. you more or less instantly trust them. It's the only profession that gets that universal privilege.

So what's the deal? Why is our health care system so unresponsive?

EDIT: Wow, this was bad even by my standards. There were about a dozen misspelled words and a rant about econ 101. I apologize to anyone who read the initial version of this post.

1 comment:

stello.us said...

One of my friends studied health care in an interdisciplinary program. After writing his thesis, he made the analogy that the chimera we've created is like a massive non-functioning rube goldberg machine that runs on money and has evolved brilliant self-defense mechanisms.
Anyway there was a great piece on this in the last harper's, you can read it here:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/02/02-6

also, for some levity,
http://harpers.org/subjects/HealthCare