Readers Write

Maureen Larkin, for HealthLeaders Media, February 28, 2008

A little more than a month ago, I used this space to talk about President George W. Bush's State of the Union address. That column prompted a lot of feedback from readers who wanted to share their thoughts about not only electronic health records, but ways to improve America's healthcare system. Turns out, there are many different opinions on this subject.

What about Medicare Part D?
"I thought it was noteworthy that you overlooked what many, or some, perceive as the landmark change under President Bush: the introduction and some would say success, of Medicare Part D," wrote Kevin Miller, executive director of Parkside Diagnostic Imaging Centers in Park Ridge, IL. "I'm not sure that everyone would agree with your sentence that little was achieved; in my opinion, however, it would be the reverse; too much was achieved and given away with the advent of Medicare Part D. But certainly it is too big to ignore or overlook or to consider as little."

Software is the problem
"It would be ideal to have a standardized universal databank of healthcare information," wrote Paul Feight, RN, CNOR, education co-coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Shadyside Hospital. "But given the incompatibility of competing software languages and the huge amounts of capital investment each company puts into the development of their products, we may never see an agreement on the best product, just the one from the company that can most highly grease the palm of the politicians."

Congress, states must give support
"Since setting the EHR goal in 2004, there has been significant work and reasonable progress toward this massive change to our healthcare system," said Nick Bonvino, national practice leader at CTG in Dallas. "You must acknowledge, this is an extremely complex problem that will cost a tremendous amount of money that many disparate stakeholders must agree upon and few are willing to fund. (President) Bush did not a mandate this change, nor could he. Congress has not fully supported the initiative, and we also need the support of state governments."

He continued, "I believe we will get is the right thing to do. But, not before years of preventable medical errors and trillions in waste."

Healthcare needs an 'alternative' direction
"The problem is much bigger than electronic medical records. Healthcare, in general, needs a new direction," wrote Sandra K. Knapp, RHIT, CCS, coding documentation educator at the Spartanburg (SC) Regional Healthcare System. "Alternative medicine/integrative medicine needs to be explored for chronic, autoimmune, and any condition that requires taking medications on a regular basis. Most likely, the cost of this approach would be far less and very possibly a much better outcome over the long haul."

Though President Bush never directly mentioned electronic health records in his January address, it's clear that the topic is one that is actively on the mind of quality leaders like these. I appreciate that these readers took the time to write me--and allowed me to publish their comments here. Did they get it right? I'm always interested in hearing what's on your mind.

Maureen Larkin is quality editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at
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