The Magic Bullet That No One Is Talking About

Imagine trying to buy a new car with a personal check? Tens of thousands of dollars exchanged based on nothing stronger than a signature on a perferrated piece of paper. This is the 21st Century! Visa and MC are a guarantee that I get paid. A check is a promise in the wind.

Except at the doctor. Perhaps more amazing than how expensive a trip to the doctor can be is the fact that he or she frequently takes checks and DOES NOT TAKE CREDIT CARDS!

Little wonder that our medical records are still largely kept on reams and reams of paper that largely contain the answers to the same questions asked over and over and over.

It is in this context that we are given the promise of electrical medical records. Surely some efficiencies will be discovered when the Costsnza-Wallet system is replaced by the TurboTax system.

Or maybe not. Studies to date do not expect electronic records to save much money, probably because no matter what format they are in, a doctor still has to bother to read them and that will take a radical change in education and attitude.

But that's ok. (Actually it's not ok, but this isn't a post about how much doctors suck.) The math on the big gains hasn't been done yet because it's not about doctors, it's about research.

All the numbers about the extent to which Obamacare cuts the deficit and all the numbers about sequestration cuts at NIH, none of them include the enormous boon that electronic medical records will provide to our efforts to identify what works and what doesn't. But it is going to be big.