osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Paul O'Niel Is As Bad At Healthcare Reform as He Was At Runing the Economy

This NYT Op Ed by Paul O'Neill is an excellent example of either the utter narrowness of view of some folks in the healthcare reform debate or deliberate misdirection. O'Neill takes the health care reform proposals to task for failure to focus on eliminating hospital infections and med errors. If we did that, says O'Neill, we'd save billions. and, of course, such initiatives can't possibly come from government, but must come from practitioners.

O'Neill is wrong on two counts. First, no one has forgotten about the problem of medical errors. The medical profession, particularly the certifying organizations like JCOA (I hope I got that right)have been focusing on patient safety and reducing med errors for some time now. It not only saves cash, it saves lives -- always a good outcome in the medical profession.

But Congress and the Administration took a more direct hand in pushing the medical profession in the right direction by mandating electronic medical records (EMRs) as part of the stimulus bill passed last winter. That bill allocated about $15 billion to convert hospitals and other healthcre providers to switch to a system of electronic medical records and required hospitals and doctors to "substantially rely" on EMRs by 2012 -- on pain of losing Medicare/Medicaid funding.

EMRS is, of course, just one more tool that could be used to better coordinate care, limit med errors, and bring down administrative costs. There is still plenty of time to implement it poorly and screw it up. But there is at least a fighting chance to address precisely the sort of problems O'Neill thinks he's discovered. The notion that a focus on the question of reforming the delivery of healthcare somehow distracts us from the question of cost saving is absurd. At best, it is an example of narrow thinking that sees only inside the box currently on the table. At worst, it is an effort to distract us from the completely different but equally pressing question: how do we deliver healthcare to every American, and in a way that actually frees the outrageous amounts of money being dumped into a non-functioning system for productive economic investment?

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