A quiet revolution took place in medicine at the beginning of the year which patients may have noticed but couldn’t explain. The federal electronic health records regulations (HER) went into effect January 1. The regulations mandate that all medical offices go paperless, a transition President Obama says will “save billions of dollars and countless lives.” (“Turning Doctors into Typists,” by Charles Krauthammer, reprint from Washington Post, The Week, June 12, 2015, pg. 12) Writer Charles Krauthammer is doubtful. There’s always a price. “…how much less listening, examining, even eye contact goes on,” (Ibid pg. 12) he asks, when a physician’s attention is glued to the computer. People aren’t data, he complains. They need human contact,
Krauthammer may be right. Sitting naked in the examination room doesn’t get attention anymore. With her eyes focused on the screen, I don’t know if my doctor is scheduling me for a vasectomy or watching — I don’t know — reruns of I Love Lucy? Still, time is money and the Affordable Care Act is becoming more popular than snow cones on a hot summer day. An estimated 10.2 million people have signed up for the plan this year, beating the goal of 9 million paid customers by 2015. (“Boring but important,” Ibid pg. 6) Increased demand means savings must be found.
For a scary example of what happens if we fail, we have Britain as an example. Parliament is scratching its head, looking for ways to rein in the cost of its National Health Care system. If they fail, the entire framework could collapse within a few years. (“Bring Back the Stiff Upper Lip,” by Jeremy Laurance, The Independent, reprinted in The Week, June 12, 2015 pg. 14) Columnist’s Jeremy Laurance suggests what’s called for is a return to the British “stiff upper lip” coupled with the realization “that medicine does not have the answer to all our ills.” (Ibid pg. 14) People need to understand, he asserts, that a certain amount of discomfort comes with old age. Not every twinge requires a trip to the hospital. “Treatments beget more treatments, yet they rarely make us feel better.” (Ibid, pg. 12.) His conclusion: “Doctors should be avoided whenever possible.” (Ibid pg. 14)
Laurance has a point. I know I feel better when I don’t have an appointment.
(Originally posted 7/10/15)