Asleep at the switch and other tales of an insomniac

Ever since I was a kid, I have had strange sleep patterns. I’ve always been kind of a night owl, but I still occasionally manage to get myself ready to work by 9 a.m.-ish. Given that my computer is three feet from my bed, maybe that’s not such a remarkable accomplishment. But I’m sharp. Usually.

In reading my voluminous e-mail—a load fortified by the upcoming HIMSS conference and by the fact that I was stricken by the flu a couple of weeks ago—I have discovered that I missed a whole bunch of good stories I could have written:

  • A study in this month’s Anesthesia & Analgesia suggests that the same cell phones that many hospitals ban the use of actually can reduce medical errors by ensuring timely communication, and the benefits far outweigh the risk of electronic interference with medical devices.

  • Connecticut announced a statewide healthcare connectivity effort called eHealth Connecticut, while Siemens Medical Solutions is getting behind the Northwest Health Information Network, an information exchange between Tacoma, Wash., and Boise, Idaho. Read what the Boston Globe reported on the Connecticut plan. Read the Northwest Health Information Network press release.

  • A Kentucky legislative committee is calling on Congress to pass a long-shot bill from U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) that would essentially create a single-payer national health system. See what the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. Good luck with that, in light of the current political climate.

  • Speaking of politics, President Bush did indeed talk about electronic health records during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Here is what he said, according to the official White House transcript:

    “Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. (Applause.) Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. (Applause.) For all Americans—for all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, and help people afford the insurance coverage they need. (Applause.)

    “We will make wider use of electronic records and other health information technology, to help control costs and reduce dangerous medical errors. We will strengthen health savings accounts—making sure individuals and small business employees can buy insurance with the same advantages that people working for big businesses now get. (Applause.) We will do more to make this coverage portable, so workers can switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance. (Applause.) And because lawsuits are driving many good doctors out of practice—leaving women in nearly 1,500 American counties without a single OB/GYN—I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year. (Applause.)”

Notice that there was no applause after the line about health IT. I watched the live telecast of the speech and heard nothing from the likes of Kennedy, Murphy, Clinton, Frist, Leavitt or anyone else gathered in the House chamber. It was suggested to me earlier in the day on Tuesday that Dr. David Brailer might have a highly visible seat near the first lady. I didn’t see him. If I missed him, please do tell me, but for all the attention health IT seems to be getting at the federal level, the country still has a lot of work to do to bring medical records out of the 19th century.

And as far as the insomnia goes, check the time I posted this one. See you in the morning. Maybe.