Healthcare IT’s Failings: Even the Onion Has Noticed

How far behind is healthcare in the full and efficient use of information technology?

So far behind that even The Onion has noticed.

The satirical newspaper and website normally focuses on “stories” such as Joe Biden’s fascination with hot babes and his muscle car. Recently, though, The Onion took aim at the shortcomings of healthcare IT with an article titled “Quick-Lube Shop Masters Electronic Record Keeping Six Years Before Medical Industry.” Written in typical Onion style that makes it seem like an actual news report, the article quotes a fictitious garage owner:

‘We figured that a basic database would help us with everything from scheduling regular appointments to predicting future lubrication requirements,’ said the proprietor of the local oil-change shop, Karl Lemke, who has no special logistical or programming skills, and who described his organizational methods, which are far more advanced than those of any hospital emergency room, as ‘basic, common-sense stuff.’

‘We can even contact your insurance provider for you to see if you’re covered and for how much, which means we can get to work on what’s wrong without bothering you about it. The system not only saves me hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, but it saves my customers a bundle, too.’

And here’s the part that really hurts: “Lemke added that he also routinely and politely inquires about his customers’ health and well-being, which puts him roughly 145 years ahead of the medical industry.”

Of course things aren’t nearly as bad as The Onion makes them out to be.

Thanks to the efforts of cloud computing pioneers such as eMix and others, things are in fact getting better. And hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars are flowing into healthcare to get MDs’ office online and to computerize and interconnect hospitals’ records through PACS and other technology.

But as one wag said about The Onion story to blogger Neil Versel, the current status of medical industry It is “so pathetic that a bunch of young joke writers in NYC who almost never go to the doctor have noticed.”

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