A Pound of Cure

Andy Kessler writes:

Yet compared with other businesses, the health-care industry has been unmoved by the logic of lowering costs to increase profits. The truth is that these folks could have digitized the whole industry ages ago. The technology has been around for a long time: Wall Street began phasing out physical stock certificates over 35 years ago. Even the cash-strapped airline industry has gone ticketless, removing huge labor and overhead costs. These industries started using electronic records because they believed it would save money. The health-care industry simply has not followed suit.

The reason lies neither with cost nor with inadequate technology. Rather, the health-care industry’s reluctance to digitize its records is rooted in a desire to keep medicine’s lucrative business model hidden. Dangling $19 billion in front of a $2.4 trillion industry is not nearly enough to get it to reveal the financial secrets that electronic health records are likely to uncover–and upon which its huge profits depend. In those medical records lie the ugly truth about the business of medicine: sickness is profitable. The greater the number of treatments, procedures, and hospital stays, the larger the profit. There is little incentive for doctors and hospitals to identify or reduce wasteful spending in medicine…

An even bigger threat to the sickness industry’s business model is that by allowing automated tracking of patients over time, electronic health records would set the stage for early detection and preventive medicine. Currently, the entire industry is organized around treating sickness, rather than keeping people healthy in the first place. Three-quarters of health-care spending is devoted to chronic care, but the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allot just 12 percent of their budgets to research on early detection. Moreover, the payment system is structured around reimbursement for treatment rather than prevention.

This is criminal. People are dying every day because life and death healthcare runs on handwritten notes. 100,000 people die every year due to medication errors. Of course! As the number of meds a person is on increases, the more likely a fatal interaction, overdose, or incorrectly written prescription will occur.

What if we “allowed” the airline industry to run on paper? Are we willing to tolerate 400 Air France crashes per year? Why does the medical industry get away with this?

I’d like to start a movement. Don’t go to doctors or hospitals that don’t use electronic medical records. They are simply unsafe and hazardous to your health.

A Pound of Cure