Obamacare Gave Us Ebola?
October 3, 2014
INSKEEP: Geoff, I want to ask about one other thing. Of course there have been many questions about why it was that the man with Ebola at one point checked into a hospital and was sent away again. Is it better understood how that happened?
BRUMFIEL: Yeah, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has released more details about how this was overlooked. What happened was, last week Duncan showed up sick at the ER. Now, he told the nurse he had come from Africa. The nurse reported that, but the electronic system was set up so that doctors never saw that. Duncan went home and came back a few days later in an ambulance. In between that time, he may have infected other family members; so this little misstep could have had big implications.
INSKEEP: A problem of communication. Geoff, thanks very much.
BRUMFIEL: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That’s NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel speaking this morning from our member station in Dallas, KERA.
(Emphasis and links added. NPR doesn’t provide a transcript of this story*; I transcribed this. This excerpt starts around 3:50 in. The people speaking are Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep and NPR science correspondent Geoff Brumfiel.)
The federal government keeps pressuring doctors to switch to exclusively electronic medical records. The 2009 Obama “stimulus” bill spent $20 billion dollars trying to give doctors “incentives” to adopt electronic medical records. Apparently that wasn’t enough; Obamacare is now trying to force doctors, threatening to cut their Medicare reimbursements if they fail to implement electronic medical records to the government’s satisfaction. (See, e.g., the Albany Business Review, “Doctors frustrated by electronic medical records as reform deadlines loom”, linking to the New York Times.)
Almost every doctor I’ve talked to hates this. The electronic systems are a big hassle (some patients now complain that their doctor has to spend the whole visit staring at a computer screen rather than looking at the patient talking to him), and they don’t necessarily improve patient outcomes (in this case, they could even give us an Ebola epidemic). Doctors’ jobs used to be about the doctor-patient relationship; now it’s more like a relationship with the government and insurance companies. Many doctors are thinking about quitting the profession entirely.
If Obamacare hadn’t forced doctors to focus on electronic medical records and checking bureaucratic boxes (rather than focus on patient care and doing their jobs), maybe that hospital would have correctly diagnosed Ebola in the first visit, and we wouldn’t be wondering how many more Americans were infected.
* Update (October 6th, 2014): NPR has since added their own transcript.