Ups and Downs of Health IT
There was an interesting article this weekend in the New York Times by Robert Pear "Privacy Issue Complicates Push to Link Medical Data" regarding the goal of the incoming Obama Administration to create jobs and great security from medical error and the privacy fears raised by consumer protection groups.
It is an interesting issue because the goal represents so much true progress and truly desirable outcomes – better record keeping, more mobility, speed, and lower rates of serious medical error – and truly grounded concerns – invasion of privacy about sensitive disease states, abortion. The mobility factor, such a plus, when you consider it is a two-edged sword that can also be a negative if one's entire most intimate medical issues can be put on a microchip and passed around.
Interestingly, one of the points raised by the article is by the Coalition for Patient Privacy whose spokesperson is quoted as saying that Health IT could provide a means for "companies" to cherry pick patients and to push expensive drugs.
The comment is somewhat striking to me. If I am suffering from a serious disease or condition and there is a treatment for it, I want that treatment to find me. But because the marketing practices and the very images of pharmaceutical companies have become so tainted, the very idea that Health IT would be a means for a company to get you medicine you need is somehow regarded as wrong by some.
But there are other aspects that are noteworthy. First, respecting Health IT, the pharmaceutical and device industry is going to have to be very careful of how the industry advocates a point of view here, since every motive is suspect. But second, the degree to which the reputation of the industry has sunk is so low that even the very medicines a company develops fall into the category of suspicious motivation. Addressing that should be a number 1 priority for an industry that, though there are many exceptions, has introduced drugs that have changed the course of human suffering on a mass scale.
In the meantime, everything that can be done to make Health IT a reality should be done. And that effort should be done through some grand process of a reverse debate, where all of the sides of this issue begin the discussion with the aspects on what can be agreed upon so that a sound and satisfying system of Health IT can be constructed on that sure-footed foundation.
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