Archive for December, 2010

Theodoric and Me

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Several of you have inquired what’s been going on and why it’s been so long between blog posts. So, here’s the deal.

It’s been a rough few months.

I don’t feel like going into too much detail, but our family has been hit by a pretty difficult streak of illnesses. Thankfully, our immediate family is fine, but we lost my mother-in-law to an illness and both my parents have spent the better part of the last few months in the hospital or nursing care. And, not the least, we lost our beloved family dog Mookie as well.

Family priorities being what they are, my time and strength has been allocated elsewhere. Hopefully, this post will be the transition back into a more regular schedule going forward.

These several months dealing with the medical system has been eye opening, and not in a good way. Not that I thought that everything was great beforehand. You see, my father had been hit by a car several years ago and I got a good look at the “sausage factory” that is the US medical system at that time. Mistakes, inefficiencies, and just plain neglect are the status quo for most who need hospital or nursing care and are not able to strongly advocate for themselves or have someone do so on their behalf.

I could go on and on with stories, and maybe I will someday, but here are just a few of the moments that I recall the most:

  • My father’s medical records were faxed from the hospital to a nursing facility when he was transferred. Sounds good, except the original was on 2-sided paper and the fax was sent 1-sided, so they only had every other page.
  • While at a nursing home, my mother-in-law acquired a wound so bad that was so neglected that they did not even notice until she needed a blood transfusion.
  • A nurse insisted that my father had the correct care for 2 wounds even though I could plainly tell that she had them reversed. It took a whole day to get her to admit that she “might” have been wrong and check with the doctor.
  • My mother, who was unable to feed herself due to her condition, had her breakfast meal tray delivered and left sitting there. When I showed up just before lunch and pointed it out, they were going to feed her the breakfast that had been sitting there for 3 hours. Yummy, 3 hour old milk.
  • Numerous mistakes made while hand-copying medication lists when transferring between facilities. Turns out nurses don’t write any more neatly than doctors.
  • My father acquired a wound on his heel while he was left in bed with a broken leg. The wound then acquired an MRSA infection that took 6 months to heal.
  • My father did not receive any antibiotics for an infection that gave him a 104 degree fever because he could not recall if he had any allergies to medications.

I’ve found that, unless I am being a pain-in-the-ass to the staff, I’m not really doing enough to make sure my parents get the quality of care they deserve. That should not be the case.

According to some studies I’ve seen referenced, there are 225,000 deaths annually in the US due to medical errors, which is almost 10% of all deaths in the US.

To us engineers that design the most complex SoCs and systems, it seems unfathomable that our medical system is still mostly using pen and paper. How hard could it be to have a central location to store all medical information on each individual? So a doctor, or even a paramedic in the field, can access your entire medical history in seconds and know exactly what is your situation. So medications follow the individual and are correctly identified. So any doctor can access any report, to see when the last flu shot was given and whether there was an adverse reaction.

What is most frustrating is that this is a very solvable problem. We have the technology. But, as usual, politics gets in the way. Even though last year’s stimulus package put billions aside to create such a database, privacy “advocates” try to block progress.

I don’t want to use this post to get on my pulpit and preach. And I’m not trying to advocate for one political party or the other. So, I’m sorry if it comes off that way. But, come on people, can’t we just figure something out to bring us into the 21st century?

harry the ASIC guy