Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Finding out what’s in it: Obamacare has forced doctors to increasingly replace medical care with administrative duties, much of which has been forced on them by the law’s requirement that they switch to electronic records.
The newly elected Barack Obama told the nation in 2009 that “[electronic records just won’t save billions of dollars”—$77 billion a year, promised the administration—“and thousands of jobs, it will save lives.” He then threw a cool $27 billion at going paperless by 2015.
It’s 2015, and what have we achieved? The $27 billion is gone, of course. The $77 billion in savings became a joke. Indeed, reported the Health and Human Services inspector general in 2014, “EHR technology can make it easier to commit fraud,” as in Medicare fraud, the copy-and-paste function allowing the instant filling of vast data fields, facilitating billing inflation.
That’s just the beginning of the losses. Consider the myriad small practices that, facing ruinous transition costs in equipment, software, training and time, have closed shop, gone bankrupt or been swallowed by larger entities. This hardly stays the long arm of the health care police, however. As of Jan. 1, 2015, if you haven’t gone electronic, your Medicare payments will be cut, by 1 percent this year, rising to 3 percent (potentially 5 percent) in subsequent years.
Then there is the toll on doctors’ time and patient care. One study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that emergency-room doctors spend 43 percent of their time entering electronic records information, 28 percent with patients. Another study found that family-practice physicians spend on average 48 minutes a day just entering clinical data.
Forget the numbers. Think just of your own doctor’s visits, of how much less listening, examining, even eye contact goes on, given the need for scrolling, clicking and box checking.
The last point is absolutely true. I have found that with most doctors today, they spend most of my visit working their computer than looking at me. It is very bad medicine, which is why my best doctors refuse to do it. Either they have an assistant do it for them (raising costs of course) or they wait until the visit is over (which of course eats into the time available to see patients).
But who are we to argue with Obama and the Democrats? As well-meaning liberals, they know best and everyone else should just shut up and obey their orders.