The US healthcare system is spectacularly, breathtakingly inefficient. We spend far more than other countries on health, 40% of the country do not have adequate access to health care, and millions don't have coverage at all.
In short, we are paying a lot and getting less for it, compared with other countries.
A lot of this is a factor of the inherent inefficiencies within our system itself - healthcare is a hodgepodge of private and public, state run and federal run, HMO and fee-for service. Basically, has been cobbled together with duct tape and band-aids for a lot of years now, and has become an administrative nightmare. Nearly 30% of all healthcare costs in the US are now administrative.
Bringing down the overall cost of healthcare is an important goal of President Obama's proposed reforms, but so is shifting the overall expenditure away from adminisatrative costs and into health delivery - the less money we spend on paperwork, the more we can spend on drugs, preventative care, and physicians' time.
That's where the Health Information Technology comes in. By computerising patient records under a consistent system, not only can we save time and administrative burden, but we can dramatically reduce the potential for mistakes - no more confusion from doctors' messy handwriting. No more second guessing a patient's medical history in case of emergency. If you are brought into the hospital unconscious, your emergency physician, will be able to immediately find out who your primary care physician is and, with appropriate safeguards, can get a full set of your records - including allergies and chronic conditions.
$19 Billion was set aside in the Stimulus plan to incentivise the use of Health Information Technology, coupled with the appropriate security measures and privacy safeguards, to protect patient health and reduce inefficiency. Obama is building on these efforts in the budget to expedite this development. The sooner we get these development in place, the more lives we can save - not just through the elimination of direct medical errors, but also through reallocating our health care dollars away from administive costs and into actual, ya know, HEALTH CARE.
Money well spent.