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12/15/2006
03:35 PM
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Health Isn't Cheap

My company, like many other providers, is investing heavily in IT that will provide better information and better outcomes, and yes, it should be significantly more cost-effective ("Health Care Mess: Attack The Root Or Don't Bother," Dec. 11). But before all the pundits rally around companies that think they can build a better mousetrap, look at the core issues.

First is funding. Yes, there's a lot of cost-shifting going on. Washington is where it starts. We, like most providers, lose money on just about every Medicare case we treat. This is the only business that I'm aware of where we're told what we will be paid for our services regardless of cost.

Second, and related to funding, is margin. A nonacademic provider hospital is happy to squeeze out a 1% to 3% margin in a good year. High salaries, high cost of facilities, high cost of medical devices, high costs for IT investments, millions in uncompensated charity care, and the list goes on. We're challenged to balance the need for IT investments against other needs.

Third, our citizens expect the very best in health care, and they should. When it's your turn in the system, you want a 64-slice CT scanner or PET scanner or a specialist who's one of the best in the country, but such people come with a seven-figure price tag. Patients have a tendency to forget the cost issues when they need care but never put their expectations aside.

Health care professionals strive every day to do our best to improve productivity and quality and to provide the best care possible. It's taking us time and scarce dollars, but we're getting it done.

Ron Strachan
VP and CIO, HealthEast Care System
St. Paul, Minn.

RFID's Still An Option

InformationWeek's article "Two Years In, RFID's Not the Cure," regarding Cardinal Health's RFID tagging pilot study, left the impression this technology won't work to track and trace pharmaceuticals through the supply chain, because there are still challenges (Nov. 20). However, we believe that our study proves RFID technology can work for pharmaceutical distribution.

We achieved accuracy rates in excess of 95% at all reading points that we deem critical to a real-life process. Cardinal Health's goal is to achieve read rates that approach 100% accuracy, and we believe this goal can be attained at the key reading points for units, cases, and pallets.

The only "design" that went into this trial was to ensure it mimicked real-world packaging and distribution conditions. Our conclusion: While there may be more work ahead to ensure widespread adoption, this technology can work for pharmaceutical tracking and tracing.

Renard Jackson
VP and General Manager,
Global Packaging Services
Cardinal Health

Theory Vs. Practice

The Dossia companies are focused on providing employees with their medical records, and for normal circumstances this may work. Numerous regional health information organizations are being formed around the country to provide the same information by community.

Unfortunately, when you're taken to the ER, do you think the physician is going to look to see if a complete blood count was done in the last month? Probably not. They're most likely going to try to save your life. Also consider this: Every attorney in the world is waiting to start a lawsuit the first time that a historical test is used to diagnose a patient instead of a current test being run.

If you want to solve health care problems, start with the lawsuits.

Bill Moncrief
Client Executive/CIO, CareTech Solutions
Sterling Heights, Mich.

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