July 27, 2005|
For Immediate Release:
Doctors Urge Congress to ‘Proceed with Caution’
Before Mandating National Information Infrastructure
Doctors in private practice and small facilities will face enormous, unsupportable costs, and patients will face decreased access to care if Congress insists on fast tracking a National Health Information Infrastructure, according to testimony submitted to Congress today by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).
Calling for restraint in passing regulations that would place a further burden on doctors, Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of AAPS, said that the only parties who might benefit federal government, certain third-party providers, and the lawyers.
And further, hasty adoption of still-changing, relatively new information technology actually threatens to result in higher long-term costs by marrying medicine to technology that might quickly become obsolete.
“Forcing technology on medicine by top-down central planning risks an end to advancements in information technology, as outmoded, inappropriate, cumbersome systems are imposed,” stated Dr. Orient in a written statement submitted to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. Instead, she urged Congress to allow the new technology to evolve, and to be voluntarily adopted as it becomes useful, as the profession has done with new imaging technology, surgical procedures, and medications.
Only a few years ago, the “Information Superhighway” was paved with fiber optics that quickly led to high-speed modems. There were no visible potholes, viruses or worms, and just a few annoying pop-ups. “The Internet looked like the answer to our dreams of a modern world, but it has become a dangerous place for storing personal records of any kind,” states Dr. Orient.
But she points out that it’s not the technology system itself that poses the greatest threat to medicine, but rather how the information gathered is used. She explains how a government-mandated information system sets the stage for third-party payers to impose “pay-for-performance – a windfall for insurance companies:
Dr. Orient predicts dire results:
“The quality and privacy of medical care would suffer, as well as availability, because many excellent practitioners are likely to become demoralized and withdraw from active practice as soon as possible, unwilling to perform under constant surveillance by bureaucrats.
“Advancements in medical technology and groundbreaking treatments for disease would become nonexistent, because the federal government would control all financial incentives for medical research and development.”
The statement challenges Congress’s understanding of the issue, writing that, for example, Sen. Kennedy’s call for “modern information technology…paying for value and results… rather than for services rendered in good faith illustrates immense chasm of understanding of American health that currently exists between the U.S. Senate and the practitioners of modern medicine.”
Government interference is already largely responsible for problems facing doctors. “Disheartened Doctors, Patient Problem,” published in the Journal of Physicians and Surgeons (Winter 2003 – see www.jpands.org), summarizes a survey conducted by AAPS documenting that increased government interference is the leading cause of physician discouragement. A whopping 62% plan to retire from active patient care at a younger age than expected five years earlier. The leading reasons given? Increased government interference in medicine, followed by increased regulatory burden.
We also can expect lawsuits to escalate. “The electronic surveillance of medicine would make it that much easier for trial lawyers to sue doctors, and doctors who would no longer be paid for defensive medical practices.”
Patient privacy – already hanging a slim thread – will be non-existent because the same law (HIPAA) that enables the National Health Information Infrastructure also effectively eliminated all patient consent for disclosure of their records. Patients have virtually no control over who gets to sneak-a-peek at their file. “Even if proponents deny that a national database would be established, the existence of multiple, interoperable databases would be its functional equivalent,” warns Dr. Orient. “In other words, everyone’s personal medical history, including the most sensitive and intimate records, would be accessible…to persons unknown to the patients, with unpredictable and potentially devastating effects.”
Patients repeatedly tell AAPS that they want two things when it comes to their medical records. First, they want full control over who can surf them, and they want full access themselves. And the only people they want to have access are the clinicians who are actually involved in their treatment.
Dr. Orient urges Congress to listen to those patient pleas. “Please keep foremost in your mind the need to protect the sacred relationship between physicians and their patients… Please do all you can to roll back destructive federal interference in medicine…At least, stop adding new burdens to a system already overloaded by counterproductive regulation,” concludes Dr. Orient.
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