There’s very on-topic and informative Health Wonk Review posted by Brian Klepper at the Health Care Blog. As expected, there are a lot of articles about the various healthcare reform proposals floating around these days. Joe Paduda delivers (as usual) an excellent article making the case for universal health care, and it’s well worth a read.
My favorite article in the HWR came from Brian Klepper himself, along with David Kibbe. They wrote an open letter to the Obama administration regarding the $50 billion that is expected to be spent on IT in order to bring healthcare communication and data transmittal into the 21st century. Klepper and Kibbe pointed out that a good deal of the healthcare IT money is likely to go towards helping docs and hospitals implement electronic health records (EHR) systems. This sounds great, but the systems are still very expensive and not as efficient as we’d like to believe.
Instead of sinking big bucks into expanding EHRs, Klepper and Kibbe suggest that the Obama team invest money in relatively low-tech IT solutions that would provide more bang for the buck. Their ideas include creating a simple, computer-based method of sharing medical records between PCPs and specialists, expanding the use of email as a means of communication between patients and doctors, and enhancing broadband access across rural and low income regions of the country. These ideas build on systems that are already in place and widely understood – the internet and basic web browsers – rather than complicated new systems that require expensive equipment and extensive training. There are lots of additional points and counterpoints in the comments section.
Shelling out big bucks to get EHR systems into every medical office across the country is sort of like buying brand new hybrid in order to reduce your environmental impact. It’s great if you can afford it and are able to choose an efficient system that interfaces well with other EHR systems. But it’s not a good solution for everyone, and since the systems are relatively new, the cost is still a bit prohibitive. The ideas the Kibble and Klepper have proposed would probably be a better use of the available funds. In the environmental impact analogy, the lower tech solutions they’ve put forth are akin to biking instead of driving, and using a drying rack for your clothes instead of the dryer. Perhaps not as sexy as the hybrid car, but still effective. And a lot less expensive.
To their list, I would add that I’d like to see a reduction in redundant paper communication from health insurance carriers. Our healthcare system, with lots of players and lots of rules, is swamped with paper and records and systems that might not all be necessary. An IT upgrade will benefit patients and everyone in the healthcare industry, as will better communication via electronic channels. But we also need some serious scrutiny to determine if all of the current communication is really necessary, and eliminate the parts that are not actively contributing to a smooth, efficient delivery of healthcare.
Kudos to Brian and David. It appears that their letter is being considered by various Congressional staffers and by the Obama Health Team. Hopefully it will have an impact, and the money dedicated to healthcare IT will be spent wisely.
The Colorado Health Insurance Insider article about allowing younger Americans to join the Medicare system was also included in the Health Wonk Review.