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Wednesday
Oct182017

Elon, Do We Have a Disaster for You!

By Kim Bellard, October 18, 2017

One of the most interesting twists resulting from Hurricane Maria striking Puerto Rico was Elon Musk's offer that Tesla could help Puerto Rico solve its energy crisis, with a long-term, 21st century fix. 
It is telling that we don't have similar offers to rebuild the Puerto Rico's health care system, which is similarly devastated.  Or, for that matter, our system, which is its own kind of disaster.

Mr. Musk was asked on Twitter if Tesla could help Puerto Rico using solar and battery power, and he responded in the affirmative, saying it had done so on smaller islands but faced no scalablity issues.  Next thing we knew the Governor of Puerto Rico and he were talking.  Now Tesla is starting to deliver their battery systems to the island, so we'll see.

Maybe it is a marketing stunt on Mr. Musk's part -- if so, you have to give him credit for it -- but the idea has merit.  A disaster like Maria is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try bold new ideas instead of blithely rebuilding what was there before.

Still, even Elon Musk isn't bold enough to offer to rebuild their health care system, much less ours.

Sometimes disasters do make us rethink our health care system.  Katrina, for example, has often been credited with creating the impetus for electronic health records (EHRs), since it destroyed countless paper records, wrecking havoc on care for thousands of patients.

But we didn't pay enough attention to even that very visible crisis.  We do have a lot more EHRs now, but less than 30% of hospitals self-report being interoperable.

The records themselves remain largely physician-centered and exclusively medical, although Epic, the nation's largest EHR vendor, is finally saying they will move to a "comprehensive health record" (CHR). . 

I'm glad that in 2017 EHRs vendors are finally realizing there is health outside a medical facility.

It shouldn't take a hurricane -- or an earthquake, or a bickering Congress -- to realize that we have an in-progress disaster with our health care system. 

Let's say we were starting from scratch.  Let's reset what our health care system could be.  Let's say we didn't have all these hospitals, hadn't trained any physicians, hadn't deployed any medical devices or used any prescription drugs, although we could start with the knowledge of what each of those could accomplish.

Would we remake the system as it is, or would we design something new?

In a previous post I enumerated several things about our health care system I was dying to redesign, and in another I gave some specifics about how a re-engineered system might work.  Even those, though, didn't start from entirely scratch, still focusing more on the medical than on the broader health perspective.

We should be spending more on our health needs -- broadly defined -- than on our medical care.  We should be more worried about if people are going to the park than if they are going to the doctor's office.  And when we do get medical care, we should make sure it is care that has solid evidence of working, rather than too often accepting care that might work.

Elon Musk has his hands full saving humanity, not to mention helping Puerto Rico, so we probably can't count on him to offer to reinvent our health care system too.  So who will it be?

This post is an abridged version of the posting in Kim Bellard’s blogsite. Click here to read the full posting

 

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