Category Archives: Health

The word for this decade “information”

Yeah, plastic is definitely, definitely out.  Information is in.  Got any?  Want some?

Just as plastic raises concerns regarding negative environmental consequences, information raises, metaphorically speaking, similar environmental concerns as individuals and corporations stress over who controls access to information.

Health Care Information Technologies (HCIT) is an area that offers seemingly “low hanging fruit” in terms of immediate individual and societal benefits.  Namely, more reliable information exchange between care providers will significantly reduce errors, thus lowering cost while increasing the quality of care.  Yet, despite bipartisan support for the outcomes of adopting electronic healthcare information systems, the pace of adoption is extremely slow.

Today, a NYT article highlights the difficulties President Obama will face as he pursues the deployment of HCIT.  Here is  one part of a very tough challenge:

“Health I.T. without privacy is an excellent way for companies to establish a gold mine of information that can be used to increase profits, promote expensive drugs, cherry-pick patients who are cheaper to insure and market directly to consumers,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, coordinator of the Coalition for Patient Privacy, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union among its members.

And, here is another:

In a letter to Congressional leaders, Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group for insurers, expressed “serious concern about privacy provisions being considered for inclusion in the economic stimulus bill.”

She criticized, in particular, a proposal that would require health care providers to obtain the consent of patients before disclosing personal health information for treatment, payment or “health care operations.”

Which leaves us with this pithy summation:

Such a requirement, she said, could cripple efforts to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, which often require coordination of care among many specialists.

“Health information technology will succeed only if privacy is protected,” said Frank C. Torres, director of consumer affairs at Microsoft. “For the president-elect to achieve his vision, he has to protect privacy.”

As an area of policy, one could ascribe the lack of progress to market failure, public failure, or both.  Multiple public values can be identified within this discussion.  Privacy, quality of life, and economic concerns are just a few of the values inherent to this debate.

The core topic of this debate, as portrayed by the article, is the quality of privacy.  How good is it?  Who controls it?  More importantly, who defines what “privacy” is?

So, who wins the debate?  Whose definition of  “public value” carries the day?  In sum, whose values does policy represent?

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Filed under Health, public values

Healthy Information Technologies

This post is merely a bookmark to me to read this later…

For most doctors, who work in small practices, an investment in electronic health records looks simply like a cost for which they will not be reimbursed. That is why policy experts say any government financial incentives to use electronic records — matching grants or other subsidies — should be focused on practices with 10 or fewer doctors, which still account for three-fourths of all doctors in this country. Only about 17 percent of the nation’s physicians are using computerized patient records, according to a government-sponsored survey published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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Filed under Health, Innovation

E-Health Records and GA

Seems Georgia is in line for federal healthcare dollars. $1.4 million will go to the Georgia Association of Primary Health Care to help regional health centers convert to systems facilitating electronic medical records (EMR). If you want to learn more about EMR, TAG has a meeting on Aug 30 to discuss the topic.

Georgia has struggled to embrace this topic. A group was formed to create an exchange association (RHIO) but ran into resistance from the state Department of Community Health which announced its own steering group to manage the effort.  Georgia’s struggle is ironic given that Georgia son Newt Gingrich has created a national center to champion EMR.  He even wrote a book on the topic (imagine that).  The opportunity for cost savings and improved quality of healthcare is so much more significant than tort reform, safe harbor from damage suits, and health savings accounts — why are we so slow to adopt?

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Filed under Health, Innovation

A vaccine shortage — how convenient!

AJC article today tells us that there is a shortage of meningitis vaccine.  This “shortage” is pushing the price to $186 per shot.

Three years ago, a big push was made to mandate vaccinations for all freshman to protect against meningitis — this push failed, largely because legislators wondered about requiring freshman to pay $82 for a shot that was only 50% effective for a disease that afflicted less then 1 in 100,000 in very strict circumstances.

However, the PR surrounding the legislative efforts in Georgia and more then 2 dozen states evidently has hit pay dirt for the vaccine manufacturer (yes there is only one – funny how that works) as demand outstrips supply.

Don’t worry, in a couple of years a new plant will be online, and I imagine, a new effort to mandate vaccination.

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Filed under biotech, Health, Uncategorized

Commandment No. Heh?

Last month, I asked what happened to the promised rate cut for malpractice insurance.  Today, AP asks the same question.  Guess what — in some cases, rates doubled.  The largest insurer, MAG, which promised the cut, froze rates but refuses to talk to the press.  Here is the quote of the day:

"I feel like I've been duped," Thrasher said. "(The debate) pitted doctors against lawyers because I think there's a natural rivalry, but a lot of my colleagues were hoodwinked."

Morally speaking, Political Insider hits the pandering nail on the head when they note a Republican who advocated the Ten Commandments display could not name more than 3.  I guess knowing the commandments is not as important as knowing where to find them, in a pinch.

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Filed under Health, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized

So, what happened to the ten percent CUT?

Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that the major provider of medical malpractice insurance is bragging about SLOWING the rate of increase for malpractice insurance — and MAG attributes this to the success of tort reform.

The Business Chronicle does not ask the question found in this post's title.  Remember, MAG put a letter on every legislator's desk right before the vote on tort reform in 2003 promising a ten percent cut.  It hasn't happened, has it?

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Filed under Health, legislation, Uncategorized

21st Century Fundamentals: Self-Education and Healthcare

For all the talk in the political sphere of taking personal responsibility in health care, precious little is being done to prepare people to learn about healthcare options.  However, such lack of discussion doesn't negate the argument that self-education on health issues works.

An obituary for Dr. Tom Ferguson, found in today's New York Times, discusses Dr. Ferguson's passion for helping individuals understand their health care needs and options.  His daughter credits Dr. Ferguson's willingness to "tweak" his doctor's directions, for managing his case of multiple myeloma, for extending his life.

"Being a doctor, he was ahead of the game," Ms. Dreiss said. "He kept with the traditional party line and did what doctors told him he should do but tweaked their advice in his own way. He read widely, worked out his own doses and was not afraid to experiment; when he heard about a clinical trial involving thalidomide, he called the drug company and told them he wanted to be in on it. He lived far longer than most people with this disease do."

Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, documented his efforts to learn more about prostate cancer so that he could participate in managing his affliction.  This 1996 Fortune magazine story highlights his efforts and is a testimony to his success (Mr. Grove is a survivor).

Bottom line, Dr. Ferguson's thesis is correct.  So, how do we teach people to learn, to manage the information critical to their success – even survival?

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Filed under Health, LMI, Uncategorized

Stroke Treatment

Story in Boston Globe about using remote diagnostic tools to treat strokes — successfully.  This technology has been available for wider distribution in Georgia for the past 4 years.  Remind me to write the list of reasons why this technology, at an initial cost of less then $10,000 per installation, has not been deployed, in Georgia.

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Filed under Health, Uncategorized