Monday, March 30, 2009

How Sick Can Healthcare Itself Get?

An interesting article in The New York Times highlights an issue that is gaining more press coverage:

people with multiple health problems — a condition known as multimorbidity — are largely overlooked both in medical research and in the nation’s clinics and hospitals".

Physicians should centralize patient care, because there isn't any excuse not to. They might cite privacy concerns, total lack of typing ability, time, funds for computer use, interest, or motivation. Whatever the excuses, they're just that.

In a medical system geared toward individual organs and diseases, there is no champion for patients with multiple illnesses — no National Institute on Multimorbidity, no charity Race for the Multimorbidity Cure, no celebrity pressuring Capitol Hill for more research"...“We often don’t know what the real safety or efficacy is for patients with multiple illnesses,” said Dr. W. Douglas Weaver, president of the American College of Cardiology...Changing that will require a major investment in research, guidelines and quality measures that include the kinds of complicated cases doctors see every day.

It's high time for doctors to use computers to centralize patient care. Computers should help control patient outcomes in every major way imaginable, from controlling healthcare costs to monitoring cancer treatments and the spread of epidemics. Healthcare costs should be organized for greater efficiency, so that healthcare is patient-based, not "greed-based".

Here's the thing, if it doesn't happen, apart from computer cognoscenti thinking physicians are slow, at some point doctors will realize how many lives they could have helped, but for their stubbornness, and they will have to live with that knowledge.

“I think everyone realizes that we need to figure out how to integrate care for our elderly patients with multiple chronic conditions,” said Dr. Ardis D. Hoven, an internist in Lexington, Ky., who is a trustee of the American Medical Association. “But we’ve got a long way to go. We’re just now beginning to verbalize this.”

Organized treatment is appropriate healthcare not just for the elderly, but for anyone with a serious medical episode or disease. If healthcare can control illness in any way by using computers to centralize and organize patient care, then it's totally irresponsible NOT to use them as much as possible. The search capabilities of computers make them mandatory methods of communication.

My recent entry here highlighted certain celebrity deaths attributed to lethal drug interactions. Doctors should organize total patient care, not expect patients to just "do it themselves". The more doctors' computers get together, the happier we'll all be.

There's just no excuse any more to put off healthcare reform. High healthcare costs hurt businesses and non-profits, and computers are terrific organizers. My question is, with the glut of specialist physicians in the United States, why has it taken so long to reach a discussion of centralized patient care -- greed in the drug and medical professions, or computer illiteracy?

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