THE GINGRICH WHO STOLED LEE MEMORIAL HEALTHCARE
A MILLION HERE, A MILLION THERE, PRETTY SOON LEE MEMORIAL IS BANKRUPT
(September 4, 2011)
In 2006, former U.S. House Speaker and current candidate for President, Newt Gingrich, testified before Congress on behalf of the proposed “Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.” At an expected cost of a mere $28 - 35 Billion, this legislation provided for funding to transform myriad medical records from paper files to an electronic database called Electronic Medical Records Systems (EMRS).
Enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the same Frankenstein American Government (ATF) that recently sold 50,000 high-powered rifles to Mexican drug lords; runs the Post Office; allowed 16 terrorists to (legally) carry box cutters onto three commercial airline flights; screwed up the printing of $1 Billion in new $100.00 bills; loses $50 Billion annually in Medicare fraud; and permits dead people to vote, now is tasked with keeping a central data base of 315,000,000 American Citizens’ medical records.
Your doctor needs a copy of last week’s cat scan? The ER orthodontist wants your dental records to repair the broken teeth you received after telling Little Black Sambo jokes to Mike Tyson in the corner bar? An emergency ambulance medical professional wants to know what your allergies are before injecting your dormant heart with Atropine? No problem. Just call the U.S. Government Emergency hotline - set up just for such an occasion by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“reinvestment” is supposed to make you feel good about all this - a $35 Billion ‘investment‘, you see).
Operator, operator, I need the records of . . . . “If this is an emergency, hang up and dial 9-1-1.” intones the recording. “If you are inquiring about medical records, please push ‘1’ followed by the * sign.” Etc. But if this a real emergency, try the Internet. The same Congressmen who so ably use the Internet to garner donations for their re-election campaigns, think this is the wave of the future, if their Internet service provider doesn’t disconnect you in the process.
The adoption of this regulation was expected to improve overall efficiency by 6% per year, and to save money in the process. Much like the current herd of presidential candidates, neither the Congress who passed this bill, nor its champion, Newt Gingrich, bothered to explain exactly how the EMR Act will accomplish either. But the process has begun, and eventually according to the Ft. Myers News-Press, it’s expected to cost Lee County’s largest Healthcare provider, Lee Memorial Health Systems, a whopping $55 million to make the switch and millions more for Hospitals and Doctors in monthly fees for the software and upkeep required from outside systems providers (with great political connections, you can bet).
So now all of our medical history, right down to previous flu attacks or clap infections, will be available on the Internet. With password safeguards, no doubt. Trying to get a password from an ER patient with a stab wound in his chest, reminds me of the serial western movies they used to show on TV after school in the 50’s (or so my dad told me). As the bad guy, ‘Red’ (with the Adolph Menjou mustache and black hat), with his newly-found conscience was about to reveal the identity of the bad guys, inevitably somebody shoots him through an open window.
As the sheriff goes running after the gunman, Ken Maynard, Rex Allen, Bob Steele, Gabby Hayes, Buffalo Bob or some other guy in a white hat, bends over ‘Red’ (the movie being in Black and White, we can only wonder why they called him Red), and asks “who did this to you, Red? Replies the wounded ‘Red’: “It was . . . Gasp, choke, wheeze, it was . . . Ahhhhhh.
(Well, can you at least give us the password, Red? Red, Red . . . ?).
Whereupon, the aforesaid “Red” inconveniently expires - at least until tomorrow‘s show, wherein Red gets plugged in a saloon for teasing Hopalong Cassidy or Roy Rogers about ordering milk (or was is Sarsaparilla, Dad?).
The increased portability and accessibility of electronic medical records certainly will increase the ease with which they can be accessed and stolen by unauthorized persons or unscrupulous users. This problem, while currently minimal for paper medical records, is a big problem for Internet transactions. Recent hacking into e-mail, phone records, and credit card accounts bears this out. But then, what have we got to hide? Besides, with the best interests of the people they represent always first and foremost, I’m sure Congress has put safeguards in place to protect our privacy. Maybe ATF can handle it.
But I digress. Is a centralized data bank costing billions of taxpayers dollars and subject to security breaches the prudent approach? Is there a better plan? I think so. Attached to my keychain is a small device called a ‘flash drive.’ At 4GB of memory, it is capable of storing all the files, pictures, and spreadsheets that I care to put on it. Larger ’flash drives’ are available. One also could easily store all of one’s medical records, complete with x-rays, and cat scans on one pocket sized ‘flash drive.’
Here‘s how my plan works: before a patient leaves his doctor’s office, hospital, medical clinic, or rehab center, a summary of his treatment for that visit, including any x-rays, prescriptions, etc. is entered into the office computer records, and a copy is downloaded onto the patient’s ‘flash drive.’ My primary care physician does that now, while I wait briefly for a printed copy. Instant update. If your doctor needs yesterday’s test results from some lab somewhere, or if ambulance personnel or ER Doctors need information about your medical history, or blood type, they can access your updated medical information from your flash drive.
Of course, you may not want to store your pornography collection on that drive. Nor should you password-protect it. Red? Red? What’s your password. Ahhhhh . . . . .
If Lee Memorial wants to ‘share’ records, as the News-Press headline implies, no problem. If the information requested is not urgent, then old channels will suffice. If urgency is an issue, providers can contact the patient (how urgent can it be if the patient isn‘t present?). If the patient wants to view his own medical records (something he presently cannot do), he can pop that ‘flash drive’ into his home computer’s standard USB slot. No incompetent government; no nosey Internet. No prying computer hackers..
Of course, the cost wouldn’t be $35 Billion, Mr. Speaker. My ‘flash drive’ cost $8.99. Chump change.