Monday, October 08, 2007

Health Information Technology

The editorial page of The Tennessean today comes out in favor of legislation furthering the development of health information technology designed to bring health care record keeping out of the age of the pen and pencil and into the 21st century. This is an important issue, as technology provides a means for addressing significant administrative problems in the health care system that both increase costs and cause risk to life and health. However, technological innovation also raises concerns relative to health care privacy that are not easily resolved, and implementation of standardized technology solutions will be extremely costly.

It is unfortunate that the editorial seems to show little awareness that this issue has been around for awhile. The newspaper breathlessly praises legislation introduced by Bart Gordon as evidence that "Congress sees the problem and the importance of the matter." Well. Similar legislation has been introduced in Congress in each of the last several years and has never managed to pass. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services has tried to fill the gap created by congressional inaction by moving forward on the basis of an executive order. Legislation has also been introduced in many states. While everyone more or less agrees that federal legislation would help move the program along, it is hardly accurate to imply that Congress is on the vanguard of this movement.

In addition, no discussion of a The Tennessean editorial would be complete without noting a couple of syntactical oddities. For example, the opening sentence makes a first impression by combining awkward phrasing and reliance on a rather uncreative cliche:

Despite the modern, sophisticated healing in the American health-care system today, the record-keeping practices in health care can sometimes look as old as the hills.

Then, there is this:

Physicians order tests and procedures for patients with marvelous new devices that perform in ways that would boggle the mind of any doctor not long ago.

Got to watch out for those patients with marvelous new devices!

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