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More on health reform proposals

Here’s some video from the California HealthCare Foundation

In a Sept. 16 event at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco, McCain health policy advisor Daniel Kessler and Obama advisor E. Richard Brown explained and debated their respective candidates’ positions. It should come as no surprise that IT is but a small part of the discussion.


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If you don’t want to watch all 66 minutes of this video, it’s broken into 13 chapters. Click on “Open Tools” in the video window to select.

October 11, 2008 I Written By

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

Did you notice?

Both John McCain and Barack Obama mentioned electronic health records during last night’s presidential debate. Notably, this was the one debate held in a town-hall format, where the candidates ostensibly spoke directly to undecided voters.

October 8, 2008 I Written By

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

Catching up

I’m slowly recovering from a tragic last few days, in which the Chicago Cubs, the best team in the National League this season, failed to show up for their three playoff games. I was among the more than 42,000–a number that surely had to violate some section of the fire code–jammed into Wrigley Field for Game 2 on Thursday night to watch a stinker for the ages. I suppose this doesn’t hurt as much as 2003, but maybe it will when it sinks in.

Alas, life goes on, and so does the backlog in my inbox. Baseball season may be nearing a close in Chicago (the White Sox are on the brink, but still alive), but the never-ending political season still has a month to go. It was brought to my attention recently that Hollywood may have anticipated the McCain-Obama matchup in a 2006 episode of The West Wing. The debate between Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) even strikes a familiar chord.

A discussion of healthcare policy starts around 3:20.

Back in the real world, I’ve seen a bunch of commentaries of late on the health IT policies of the Obama and McCain campaigns, in part because I had to write summaries for both the Physician Office Technology Report of Part B News and for my British client, E-Health Insider. The most interesting analysis I’ve seen so far is from David Merritt, a longtime aide to Newt Gingrich who also is advising the McCain campaign. Despite this built-in bias, Merritt actually gives a mostly unbiased assessment of the plans. Mostly.

If you want to know more, check out the Kaiser Family Foundation’s health issues comparison tool on 15 areas of health policy, including IT.

I still think both candidates are really lacking in specificity when it comes to health IT. I am anxious to hear further details, though I don’t really expect to hear much before the actual election. More likely, the details will come when the new president names his secretary of Health and Human Services, and perhaps not until the full healthcare policy teams are in place.

Moving on, there’s a new professional certification program in health information exchange. It’s from the same people who developed programs to designate certified professionals in health information technology and certified professionals in electronic health records. I wrote about that in November 2004 and got one very pointed comment how certification courses like this were “a joke” because they convey a hoity-toity title after just a few days of training. Just like then, however, program has some highly respected names on its advisory board. Anyone know if this sort of thing is worth it?

While we’re talking about professional credentials, here’s a link to the newly redesigned EMR Jobs.com site (even though it defaults to a .net site). Now I have just set myself up for everyone with an IT-related Web site to demand a link. I’ve been good at ignoring e-mails in the past, and I can do it in the future.

I didn’t submit anything to the most recent Health Wonk Review, but host David Shafrin of the Healthcare Economist blog examines groups in need of bail-outs.

I figured it would be much ado about nothing when HIMSS circulated a letter it sent to Reps. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.) about the proposed “Health-e Information Technology Act of 2008.” Just a few weeks ago, I expressed my frustration with new legislation that stands almost zero chance of passing.

Apparently the response did strike a raw nerve with some people, including open-source advocate Fred Trotter, who accused HIMSS of being little more than a lobby group for vendors of proprietary systems. HIMSS subsequently published a “fact sheet” about its views on the Stark-Camp bill, including this statement: “HIMSS actively supports the industry’s exploration and utilization of open source software as one avenue for information technology solutions within the healthcare industry.”

Just how significant is this mini-spat anyway?

October 5, 2008 I Written By

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

It’s the quality, stupid.

At the risk of sounding partisan—and I do my best to be unbiased in my actual journalism—I have to call out Sen. John McCain for an ad that he’s been running about healthcare. “The problem with healthcare in America is not the quality of healthcare, it’s the availability and the affordability.”

Say what?

Someone had better brief him on the two Institute of Medicine reports, “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System” (1999) and “Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century” (2001), not to mention the countless other academic studies that have followed in recent years questioning the adherence of physicians and hospitals to established quality metrics.

Watch for yourself.

This sounds like McCain is trying to play the patriotism card by insinuating that we have the best health system in the world simply because we’re the United States of America. Yes, cost and access are huge issues, but so is quality. Ask anyone who has ever been prescribed the wrong medication or acquired a MRSA infection in a hospital.

For his part, Sen. Barack Obama has not really run any commercials related to healthcare, but he does focus on cost in his discussion of quality on his campaign Web site.

Clearly, this issue is more esoteric and less sexy than, say, Hurricane Ike or the Wall Street crisis, but someone needs to explain to both candidates that quality really is a problem in American healthcare. Perhaps these two senators are part of the reason why Congress has done virtually nothing on health IT?

September 18, 2008 I Written By

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