Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 13, 2013

Some systems need some work



I get dozens of emails and suggestions on issues and items that folks want to see in my weekly column.

Some folks keep asking me to stop so much national stuff on unaffordable health care and our corrupt political system and direct what I write about to local interest. This is hard for me to do because I sincerely believe that these two issues are doing more to destroy the strong middle class in our country and state than any other issues. There are very few issues that cannot be root caused to a terribly corrupt political system that is ruled by a select group of special interests.

I will have to admit that I am surprised at the response with calls, personal comments and emails as a result of the column I wrote," Where the money comes from." I guess that I need to accept what they are telling me about local interest being so important.

I received an email titled, "Founded by geniuses, run by idiots" that is more truthful than I think we want to believe. I do not completely agree with the term "idiots" because I think we have a lot of intelligent people in government. What we have missing is honesty, character and ethics along with care for the folks they represent.

"If you can get arrested for hunting or fishing without a license, but not for being in the country illegally — you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots. If you have to get your parents' permission to go on a field trip or take an aspirin in school but not to get an abortion, you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots. If you have to show identification to board a plane, cash a check, buy liquor, or check out a library book, but not to vote who runs the government, you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots. If, in the largest city, you can buy two 16-ounce sodas, but not a 24-ounce soda because 24-ounces of a sugary drink might make you fat, you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots.

"If children are forcibly removed from parents who discipline them with spankings while children of addicts are left in filth and drug infested homes, you might live in a country founded by geniuses but run by idiots."

You may not agree, but just thinking about the ridiculousness of some of the ways our government operates should cause us to want a complete turnover and public financing of elections.

Now, I want to share a local story. This story is not to be disparaging of our doctors or anyone in the medical field. I think it is just a small example of how the system of medical care is not focused on reducing the runaway costs. We have a magnificent new facility that everyone should be proud of. I am sure that it is staffed with good doctors, nurses and medical personnel.

Frankly, I think some of the systems are totally outdated. What do I mean about systems? A story about a patient that goes to his or her primary care physician who works for the same hospital and is referred to a specialist in an office suite that is on the same floor. When all of the information including past history, medicines prescribed, lab reports, procedures done, etc., are already in a database from many years, why would going down the hall to a specialist that works for the same hospital require a complete new history and work up? What happened to the electronic medical records we heard so much about?

We can have magnificent buildings and resort hotel surroundings with great doctors and nurses, but if we are ever going to lower the cost of health care, we will need to wring a lot of cost and waste out of the systems. It is not carved in stone that this industry is immune to improved efficiency, reduced waste with continuous improvement in quality. A panel of experts consisting of doctors, administrators and qualified experts spent a reported 18 months to tell us that 30 cents of every dollar in this industry is waste.

The level of education and experience should dictate that this industry be a leader in adaption of information technology to reduce waste and redundant cost. I know that someone will jump at the chance to tell me that serving on a hospital board for several years does not qualify me to critique their operations and making tires is not comparable to healing and caring for the sick.

I have the same answer to this as when a school board member told me the same thing about education; both schools and hospitals require vigilant attention to cost and efficiency. The major difference is that the product of successful students and healed patients is just so much more precious and important that any product made in industry. This dictates our schools and hospitals should be leaders in quality improvement, cost control and efficiency improvement.

You have two legs of the three-legged stool stable and solidly planted; the quality doctors/nurses and the facility. I know one excellent specialist that by the time you leave the examining or procedure room and get to the front desk, a report is coming out of the printer for you and a copy to your primary care physician.

Some serious focus work on systems might help reduce the almost 60 percent increase in most prices that the new hospital has posted above what was charged in the older hospital.

The third leg — operational systems need some work. I can understand that we may not be ready for city to city and state to state computerized records; but across the hall? C'mon!