The Onion nails healthcare for slow EMR adoption

Satirical newspaper The Onion (“America’s Finest News Source”) is on its game once again. Many of you probably have already seen the story from last week, headlined, “Quick-Lube Shop Masters Electronic Record Keeping Six Years Before Medical Industry.” (I tweeted about it over the weekend and some other healthcare blogs have posted it.)

An excerpt:

“We figured that a basic database would help us with everything from scheduling regular appointments to predicting future lubrication requirements,” said the proprietor of the local oil-change shop, Karl Lemke, who has no special logistical or programming skills, and who described his organizational methods, which are far more advanced than those of any hospital emergency room, as “basic, common-sense stuff.” “We can even contact your insurance provider for you to see if you’re covered and for how much, which means we can get to work on what’s wrong without bothering you about it. The system not only saves me hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, but it saves my customers a bundle, too.”

“In other words, we’re so pathetic that a bunch of young joke writers in NYC who almost never go to the doctor have noticed,” the insightful Michael Millenson notes via email.  Millenson also points out that this is not the first time The Onion has made light of quality problems in hospitals. He referred to a 2005 article with the headline, “‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ Signs Top Iraqi Hospital Wish List.” The story said, “‘We appreciate the bedding, laundry-sanitization equipment, window glass, penicillin, needles, wall-repair materials, and so on, but without clean hands, none of these mean anything.’ Al-Obaidi said the importance of hand-washing could not, unlike doctors and nurses, be overstressed.”

Yes, we’re so pathetic that a bunch of young joke writers who almost never go to the doctor noticed six years ago that hand-washing in hospitals can save lives. Yet, clinicians in the U.S. routinely slip up in this department. (Paging Don Berwick yet again!)