A Chance to Sound Off: What's Ailing Healthcare?

This morning it was my pleasure to attend a Healthcare Advisory Committee Meeting hosted by our 8th District US Congressman for Washington State, Dave Reichert. Congressman Reichert is perhaps best known as King County Sheriff, Dave Reichert, who helped bring the infamous Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway to justice. These days Congressman Reichert is especially passionate about healthcare. Twice each year he brings together a small group of regional healthcare leaders to tell him what's on our minds. The group consists of hospital CEOs, health plan executives, health educators, professional association leaders, and consultants including one or two of us who speak on behalf of information technology in healthcare.

The Congressman told us he primarily wanted to discuss issues dealing with the new Medicare Part D Prescription Drug program, issues related to government mandates that made healthcare delivery more burdensome, issues about information technology adoption in healthcare including concerns about privacy and security, and health care insurance issues such as the growing trend towards healthcare savings accounts.

A retired physician executive on the committee immediately raised alarms about the growing federal deficit and five grossly under funded entitlement programs; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Military Health and the VA. Everyone knows these programs are a train wreck waiting to happen, but Congress appears unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Following some debate on that, each person on the committee spoke on behalf of their favorite vested interest and asked how they could get more federal money for their programs. I got a bit of a laugh when I pointed out the irony in what had just taken place. We had proclaimed our deep concerns about the growing federal deficit and unfunded entitlement programs, and then gone around the room asking for more handouts. Go figure!

During the time I had to address Congressman Reichert, I commented on the need to simplify and clarify HIPAA regulations so that hospitals and healthcare providers would be more willing to share information with those who need it most; caregivers, patients and family members. It seems absurd that we often can't get or share the information we need to take care of our loved ones or render care to our patients let alone be able to communicate and collaborate on their care in a timely, efficient manner. I also raised concerns about how far the US is falling behind other countries in the implementation of information technologies in healthcare. We spend more money per person on healthcare than any country in the world. We also squander a heck of a lot of it because of the inefficiencies and waste in a "system" that still does its business largely with paper forms and ink. Congressman Reichert strongly agrees that we have the necessary technologies to fix this. But do we have the will? Furthermore, think how much money we could save if technology helped us deliver the most appropriate level of care to people exactly when and where it was needed. Why in this day and age do I need to make an appointment and drive somewhere to get even the most basic services from a healthcare provider?

If you have something you'd like to pass along to our leaders in D.C. leave me a comment. I'll pass it along to Congressman Reichert.

Bill Crounse, MD Healthcare Industry Director Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences