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Digital Medical Hubris
Townhall.com ^ | January 15, 2013 | Mona Charen

Posted on 01/15/2013 5:34:50 AM PST by Kaslin

Now the other shoes begin to drop. Voters knew in November that many of the promises Obama made in 2008 had been broken. The economy had not revived as he had promised it would ("or we'll be talking about a one-term proposition"). He has not "changed the tone in Washington" -- except for the worse. He didn't prevent lobbyists from holding positions in his administration. He didn't cut the deficit in half; he increased it radically. But voters apparently decided that the president deserved credit for good intentions.

How long will that indulgence last? The next four years, whatever else they may bring, will tally the results of Obama's first term policies. Some of those will not be felt until 2014, when Obamacare comes fully online. Others will be subtle, like the depressing effect of Dodd/Frank on lending. Still others will be obvious -- Obama's "chickens coming home to roost."

One of these deserves close attention because it so perfectly captures what's wrong with the president's (and the Democratic Party's) approach to government.

Remember Mr. Obama's pet project to improve American medical care by moving to digital medical records? Candidate Obama talked it up in 2008, and the newly-elected president inserted it into the stimulus bill in 2009. Switching from paper to digital medical records, Obama said, would reduce the cost and improve the quality of care. It would "cut waste, eliminate red tape and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests." Digital records would also reduce "deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system."

Because Obama thought it would be a good idea, because it seemed like common sense to him, U.S. taxpayers spent $19 billion to transition doctors' offices and hospitals to electronic systems. Doctors and hospitals that adopt digital systems are eligible for payments from Uncle Sam. Those who fail to comply will be punished with declining Medicare reimbursements starting in 2015. It's a coercive, top-down, big government "solution" in search of a problem.

It might be a good idea to adopt digital medical records. But the "common sense" way to do it would be through an organic, grassroots system in which doctors and other health professionals tested systems and selected those that worked best for the money expended. Only doctors themselves are in a position to judge whether switching to an electronic system makes them more or less efficient. Doctors would not spend the money unless they were confident that such technology would be worth the price.

If the government is paying for it, such calculations fly out the window. In fact, with the government coercing adoption, bad decisions are inevitable.

A number of studies and reports are filtering in showing that government-sponsored digital medical records have not reduced medical costs. A study in the journal Health Affairs found that offices with digital medical records were 40 to 70 percent more likely to order diagnostic tests -- thus increasing medical spending. Doctors have also raised privacy concerns. Patient confidentiality is strictly regulated by the 1996 HIPAA law. Unauthorized releases could leave physicians vulnerable to lawsuits. But many of the existing software systems fail to protect confidentiality.

As with so much government cash, we have no idea whether it really gets spent on the intended ends. HHS has issued a report suggesting that Medicare officials have failed to verify whether the health professionals who got the government cash to adopt digital systems have actually used them. None of the payments has been audited.

The RAND Corporation, which had issued a cheerleading report in 2005 arguing that the U.S. could save $81 billion a year by adopting digital records, has issued a new report suggesting that its original estimates were, ahem, optimistic. "Evidence of significant savings is scant," reports The New York Times, "and there is increasing concern that electronic records have actually added to costs by making it easier to bill more for some services."

The latest RAND study notes that many of the electronic records systems are hard to use and lack interoperability. Anecdotal evidence suggests that doctors hate them. Like all computer-based systems, they are vulnerable to crashes. Dr. David Brailer, the health information czar under George W. Bush summed it up well for the Times, "The vast sum of stimulus money flowing into health information technology created a 'race to adopt' mentality -- buy the systems today to get government handouts, but figure out how to make them work tomorrow."

If then, but taxpayers will never see that $19 billion again. That's Democratic leadership -- less efficiency at higher prices.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government
KEYWORDS: brokenpromises; digitalage; medicalrecords; obama

1 posted on 01/15/2013 5:34:57 AM PST by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

Our system slows us down quite a bit, but automates the mindless data collection that insurers require for paying at higher levels. Total billables for the day are probably close to what they were before but we are seeing fewer patients, wait times are up and patient satisfaction has suffered.


2 posted on 01/15/2013 5:52:19 AM PST by dangerdoc (see post #6)
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To: Kaslin
Believe it or not, out of fear of running afoul of billing allowances, plenty of docs undercharge (no one wants to wind up audited and fined). Many of the electronic medical record software packages are designed to make sure all of the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed for billing compliance, and this will lead to bigger bills.
3 posted on 01/15/2013 6:10:55 AM PST by pieceofthepuzzle
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To: Kaslin

The same government that ruled abortion was a woman’s choice, wants to give me no choice about my medical insurance and my medical care.

The same government that ruled abortion legal because it was an issue of privacy now wants to invade my privacy by having full access to all my medical records. What? You’ll protect my privacy? I have one word for you: Wikileaks.


4 posted on 01/15/2013 6:13:39 AM PST by generally (Don't be stupid. We have politicians for that.)
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To: Kaslin

Apparently, this new digital records thing is such a time waster, that some clinicians at the hospital where my husband works are putting in two extra hours of work a day just on record keeping. I hear that some are going 80% time so that they can get home at a somewhat reasonable hour.


5 posted on 01/15/2013 6:28:15 AM PST by stayathomemom (Beware of kittens modifying your posts.)
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To: Kaslin

As with so much government cash, we have no idea whether it really gets spent on the intended ends. HHS has issued a report suggesting that Medicare officials have failed to verify whether the health professionals who got the government cash to adopt digital systems have actually used them. None of the payments has been audited

The author is deluded. There are hundreds of doctors being audited.
.


6 posted on 01/15/2013 7:35:40 AM PST by Cyman
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To: stayathomemom
There are ~600K physicians in the US, ~250k are over 55. Half of all newer docs are women, who typically do not work as many clinical hours as men for common-sense reasons (physical strength and children and they just don't seem to want to be surgeons).

Now doctors are paid doctor's wages to be typists. It is so absurd. So many older docs, good clincians, are lousy typists.

The purpose of digital records: the AMA owns the rights to some of the software. 17% of docs belong to the AMA. The typical doc HATES the AMA, which is made of of slacker doctors (a lot of women, frankly) who do not like the hard work of seeing patients so they become nanny bureaucrats at licensing boards.

The only good thing about digital records is that we can start outing progressives who have sexual diseases and really ought to be proud of all the abortions they've had. Outing gun owners? Out AIDS and abortion! All it takes is one hacker.

7 posted on 01/15/2013 8:00:40 AM PST by Mamzelle
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