As Tech Spreads, Hippocrates Dawdles

Washington Post

Wednesday, April 14, 2004; Page E01

One of the great anomalies of the U.S. health care system is that it is one of the most technically advanced industries and one of the most backward.

We have miracle drugs to stave off AIDS and heart attacks, but the prescriptions for them are still written and delivered by hand. We have diagnostic tools that can produce 3D images of brain tumors in real time, but it still takes two hours for the film to be delivered to the doctor’s office. Our research establishment churns out mountains of insight about what works and what doesn’t, but doctors still think they can store it all in their heads.

In terms of information technology, the health care industry is now about where the auto industry was in 1980.

This problem is at the heart of why the United States spends way more than any other industrialized country for health care with very little to show for it in terms of better health. If we could solve it, we could avoid tens of thousands of deaths each year from medical errors and save much of the estimated $150 billion wasted on unnecessary paperwork and medical procedures.

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