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Sen. Whitehouse, make some more noise, please

I have railed more often than I can count against politicians and the national media for misleading or at least failing to inform the public on what health reform is all about. For me, it was quite refreshing to see an interview in the Washington Post with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), attempting to shed some light on the parts of reform that have nothing to do with insurance.

“The Affordable Care Act is mostly known as an insurance expansion, expected to extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans,” started the post by Sarah Kliff. “But … a big chunk of the law is dedicated something arguably more ambitious: an overhaul of the American business model for medicine. ‘This is a very significant piece of the bill that has received virtually no attention because it’s so non-controversial,’ Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told me in a recent interview.”

On Thursday, Whitehouse released a 52-page document outlining what he sees as the 47 changes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is making to how care is delivered. That doesn’t even count the reforms in the HITECH section of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from a year earlier, by the way.

Health IT, of course, is a big part of reform.”The HITECH Act took important steps to restructure financial incentives to shift the pattern of health IT adoption. The HITECH Act’s Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments are encouraging doctors and hospitals to adopt and “meaningfully use” certified
electronic health records,” Whitehouse noted.

Also from that report:

Health information technology (IT) will radically transform the health care industry, and is the essential, underlying framework for health care delivery system reform. The ACA’s payment reforms, pilot projects, and other delivery system reforms are built with the expectation of having IT-enabled providers. In particular, the shift to new models of care, like ACOs, will rely heavily on information exchange and reporting quality outcomes. Indeed, the formation of ACOs is contingent on having providers “online” to transfer information and patient records, and report quality measures.

Whitehouse did discuss ACOs with the Washington Post, but there’s a reason why the interview appears on a page called the WonkBlog. This stuff is too complicated and wonky for the average person.

What isn’t complicated is explaining that throwing more money at a broken system, as the insurance expansion does, will not lower the cost of care. It also isn’t complicated to explain that tens of thousands of Americans needlessly die each year due to medical errors or low-quality care. Yet, more than a few defenders of the ACA have said that the insurance mandate would help guarantee “quality care” for millions.

Wrong!

The insurance expansion guarantees insurance coverage. It does not guarantee quality care. Whoever wins Friday’s Mega Millions drawing wouldn’t necessarily be able to buy quality care, either. Nor would Bill Gates, for that matter. You can’t get quality care unless you’re willing to address the causes of errors and adverse events. Period.

Sen. Whitehouse seems to understand that. I doubt too many other members of Congress do, despite the fact that a former colleague, the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who had the “Cadillac” coverage so many people covet, died as a result of a medical error.

March 30, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Telemedicine from the 1920s?

I saw an interesting article today on Smithsonian magazine’s Paleofuture blog, suggesting that an early radio and publishing professional may have predicted telemedicine as early as 1925.

According to the article, that person, Hugo Gernsback, predicted that within 50 years, by 1975, there would be a contraption he called the “teledactyl.” With this device, physicians would be able to see patients on a television screen (TV did exist in 1925, though it hadn’t reached the masses) and also “touch” patients with radio-controlled arms.

Gernsback wrote:

The busy doctor, fifty years hence, will not be able to visit his patients as he does now. It takes too much time, and he can only, at best, see a limited number today. Whereas the services of a really big doctor are so important that he should never have to leave his office; on the other hand, his patients cannot always come to him. This is where the teledactyl and diagnosis by radio comes in.

Here’s how Gernsback visualized it, on the cover of the February 1925 issue of Science and Invention magazine, which he published.

Incidentally, according to the Smithsonian article, Gernsback just a year later launched a new magazine called Amazing Stories, supposedly the first publication fully dedicated to science fiction. Clearly, though, there was more than a little truth in the 1925 forecast.

March 27, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Might as well cash in on fervor over new iPad

I’m not one to sell myself out, but I read a story in satirical newspaper The Onion today with the following headline: “This Article Generating Thousands Of Dollars In Ad Revenue Simply By Mentioning New iPad.” An excerpt:

“Furthermore, any subsequent mention of the new iPad in this article—as well as any mention of the fact that preorders for the device start today—is resulting in increased reader traffic and, thus, increased revenues for your company’s ad-based business model.” At press time, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad, new iPad.

Gotta love lame attempts at SEO! We’ll see if it works for me. ;)

March 7, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Video: ‘Meet the Bloggers’ panel from HIMSS12

As promised,  there is some video from the “Meet the Bloggers” panel I appeared on, and it comes to us from Dr. Chuck Webster of EHR Workflow Inc. and the EHR.BZ Report. (You may know him from his previous job as CMIO of EHR vendor EncounterPro, formerly known as JMJ Technologies.) Webster was there in the front row capturing parts of the session with a Bluetooth camera strapped to his hat.

The moderator is Brian Ahier and the panelist are, from left to right: Healthcare Scene boss and full-time healthcare blogger John Lynn; fellow Healthcare Scene contributor Jennifer Dennard (real job:  social marketing director at Billian’s HealthDATA/Porter Research/HITR.com); myself; and Carissa Caramanis O’Brien of Aetna.

Here are the results, hopefully in chronological order:

For the record, I do not use Google+. I have an account, and some readers have added me to their circles, but I have not posted a single word there. Google’s terms of service—both old and new—essentially gives the Don’t Be Evil company the right to use my content in any way it sees fit. From “Your Content in our Services”:

Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

You can find more information about how Google uses and stores content in the privacy policy or additional terms for particular Services. If you submit feedback or suggestions about our Services, we may use your feedback or suggestions without obligation to you.

As someone who makes a living creating content, this scares me. Google effectively can steal and modify my content without compensation. No, thanks.

I also should give a belated shout-out to Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters, who hosted last week’s Health Wonk Review. My HIMSS12 wrap made the review of healthcare news from the blogosphere.

 

March 6, 2012 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.