I just read about Barack Obama’s big idea to digitize health records. Good thing George Bush invented the Internet to pave the way for that possibility. Seriously, that idea has been around for awhile, but I’ll give credit to Obama if he actually puts it into effect and it becomes a reality. To his credit, Bush laid down some (only some as Bush turned down a child health care plan) technology framework to make it a foreseeable possibility. Will it happen? It needs to.
To digitize the health records, we will need to severely improve on our communication infrastructure. I liken our health and communication infrastructure to Barry Bonds. They hit a lot of home runs in getting things right, but once in awhile they strike out and lack in positive production. Once in awhile, someone does something illegal and gets into a lot of trouble (well he isn’t proven guilty yet), and not to mention the aging. Old age slows anything down, causing value to drop. Barry tried some quick fixes to lengthen his career, and the U.S. does as well with health and communication, but quick fixes don’t work. We need change.
Obama ran his race on the platform of promised change, and now the stage is his. We all know our economy needs a huge boost, and Obama knows this as well. One reason I believe it has sank is because we have fallen behind in cutting-edge technology and modernized infrastructure. Our technology infrastructure is not where it can and should be. How can the country who spends the most on energy, and really on almost anything, have an infrastructure that lags? I am real interested to see what happens with the stimulus, which hopefully goes to improve the health and communication infrastructures.
To improve health, we need to improve our communication technology. For a country with our resources, our wireless infrastructure really lacks. Gradually we are getting up to a 3G network across the country, but too many spots lack in that coverage. I live outside DC, coverage should always be full. Why am I sitting in my office off a major interstate and I only have one bar? Also, why am I so close to our nation’s capital and the power always goes out? I work in a very large business area, and already this year, the power has gone out three times. Signs of an aging power system, which heavily affects our communication infrastructure and the hospital that is right down the street from my office.
We need a boost. We should have improved, more cost-effective ways to further minimize down time of our power, digital, and mobile communication infrastructures. Once we improve on that, we can begin to build our 21st century digital health care system. We need to do away with paper patient files. Our health records should be available in a digital format, and not just because it saves trees. A standardized system of digital records would allow for quicker, easier access by doctors to diagnose patients faster. Doctors will be able to view past medical history and known allergies, as well as have insurance and emergency contact information available if ever necessary. These improvements alone would cause a significant drop in medical malpractice.
Digital health records would benefit the patient as well. Records would also be available for our own personal use. We can check to see when we last had a physical, what medicine was prescribed, and view past x-rays. Family’s can review visits for their children, and make payments online. Another improvement that would be great would be a system that links the doctor to the pharmacy. It would save time and money if a patient received a prescription, the doctor sends it to the patient’s preferred pharmacy, the prescription is ready for pickup as soon as the patient arrives at the pharmacy. Why should we have to take a paper and sit around for an hour for someone to fill a bottle with a few pills?
These are just a few ideas right now, but all greatly possible with an improved digital health care system, made possible by an improved communication infrastructure. An improved health care system would definitely decrease the costs of health care, but will it happen? There are so many dependencies. For one, the aforementioned communication infrastructure needs to be improved. Also, a lot of money will need to be fronted by the government to assist with such a huge makeover. There will be a lack of qualified personnel to make such an upgrade possible, so money will need to be placed into training individuals. The pros though would be the decreased health costs, improved systems, and the creation of a lot of new jobs to make this initiative possible; all boosts for a lagging economy.
Obama, you made the call for change. The ball is in your court. Let’s make it happen.