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TECHNOLOGY/POLICY: Medpundit on Frist’s flight of fantasy

Over at Medpundit Sydney Smith takes a hillarious rip at Bill Frist’s vision for the IT interconnected health care future. And she’s wrong in one of her takeaway points and right in another. She’s wrong that IT and interconnected EMRs won’t benefit patients. Although they probably won’t help too much in the case of the heart attack that the mythical diabetic in Frist’s example has, they certainly will have a great impact on making sure that diabetics and other chronically ill patients actually get the routine care and routine bullying that they require to stay healthier. The same EMRs, if we are to suspend disbelief and belief that they will be interoperable and shared, will inform all clinicians about all the drugs a patient’s on, so they don’t have to rely on the list the elderly patient wrote on their arm (or just guessed at!). Of course the benefit to patients may not be a benefit to doctors–especially ones in small practices who don’t really have the ability to change their work processes. But surely Sydney’s not preoccupied by those concerns?

On the other hand, Syd is probably quite right that the perfect information about the health status of the individual will allow insurance companies to cherry-pick the best risks and discriminate against the sick. Of course the real joke is that Syd has in the past railed against government medicine (i.e. anything to do with Kerry) and is a firm conservative Republican. Yet the only way out of the insurance conundrum is to put every patient in the same risk pool. And that is something that Sydney apparently wouldn’t like because it’s called mandatory universal health care.

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