Monday, March 22, 2010

 

EH! OBAMARAMA...

The landmark Health Care Reform legislation may be a huge victory for U.S. President Barack Obama, but at what cost?

Perhaps not since slavery tore apart the fledgling American nation 150 years ago, has the country been so divided over such basic human principles as universal health care. Half of the United-States is basking in the afterglow of a historic Congressional vote whilst the other half is vowing revenge.

At least eleven States; and as many as two-thirds of the Nation's fifty states (31) are prepping legal challenges against President Obama's health reform victory on the claim that the legislation violates State Constitutional rights.

A benchmark provision of the nearly $ 1-Trillion legislation allocates $19 Billion in stimulus funds to facilitate the shift from paper to electronic medical records. An issue which sadly...well, for Ontario at least...rings all too familiar. Perhaps also for all Canadians who benefit from a health-insurance covered 322-million visits to their doctor's office each year. Lest I digress: I can account for about 6 visits per year to my physician...but I am truly perplexed to learn from that statistic that each and every one of you see a doctor at least 11 times a year. Jeez, are y'all that sick?

Be that as it may - Have you ever heard of "Canada Health Infoway Incorporated"? - In the past nine years the not-for-profit corporation has received $2-Billion from the Federal Government...The largess of your tax dollars at work...to convert the nation's medical records electronically. The completion goal is in 2016 - Six year's out the Corporation reports a 5% to 10% completion rate.

The experience in my province of residency: Ontario, has been plagued by scandal. Beginning in 2002, under two separate agencies, the Government of Ontario has been accused of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on its E-Medical system. First with the SSHA (Smart Systems for Health Agency) which was abolished in 2007; and replaced in 2008 by E-Health Ontario; accused in April 2009 of wasting the $647-million spent on the SSHA system by starting all over again from scratch. The wreckage from which condemned both E-Health's CEO, Sarah Kramer, and the province's Minister of Health, David Caplan, to the scrap pile of politics.

EVERYBODY: listen-up! - A new study...no less than from the prestigious "Harvard Medical School" suggests that electronic health records: "Do not save hospitals money...and, in fact often end up increasing costs."

The five year study of more than 4000 hospitals in the United-States found no evidence of savings, and just as importantly little evidence that electronic records improve care. The lead author of the Harvard University survey, David Himmerstein says although they did find hospitals where electronic records improved efficiency and quality - "Just not many." The key, he says, is customising computer systems to different hospitals, rather than using a one-size fits all approach.

Oh boy! I sure hope the good folks at E-Health Ontario were copied. The co-author of the Harvard Medical School study is even more blunt. According to Dr. Seffie Woolhandler: "It's premature to spend so much on computers before there's evidence it will be worthwhile." - Consider yourselves advised.

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Comments:
Ah yes, Bill, but you Canadians do not have to fear going bankrupt because you get sick. The health care bill passed by Congress may not be perfect, but it does begin to bring the US health care system in line with the rest of the developed world. What it does not change is that the basis of the US system is for profit insurance companies who care more about their profits than their policy holders. As for electronic medical records, maybe we should be looking at what the French do, an electronic system that seems to work.
 
Of course...you have hit the nail on the head: The problem is that for everyone of you, my sense is that there is another American with a diametricaly opposite reaction.
 
There are far too many Americans who do not see health care as a basic right; nor do they see a role for government in providing for the needs of the people. Of course,these are the same people who scream, "Keep the government out of my Medicare!"
 

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