A Healthy Outlook

A Healthy Outlook

by / April 11, 2007

Recently I suggested to my husband that we purchase property in his native Mexico so we could divide our time between both locations when we retire. Retirement is a ways off for us, so it was a whimsical discussion. Lighthearted as it was, my husband squashed the idea before it got off the ground. "You don't want to grow old there," he said. "The medical care is awful."

I recalled a trip we took a few years ago to the town where he grew up and remembered my visit to the doctor's office. I had to agree the care I received wasn't the top-notch care I am used to. I was also told that hospitals would deny treatment if you were unable to pay previous debts -- even if you're dying. I decided the idea wasn't so great after all. We'll be spending our golden years right here in the good old U.S.A. and hopefully, when we reach retirement, the standard of U.S. health care will still be the best in the world.

Not only is quality health care a cornerstone of our high standard of living, but the availability of care IS as well. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security assure us that we will be taken care of even in the direst circumstances.

But, as we're all aware, these programs are expected to run into serious trouble as baby boomers hit retirement and outputs for these programs increasingly exceed income. Framing the solution as a simple matter of reducing benefits or increasing taxes to support these programs means a major impact on the American standard of living is inevitable. And according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's remarks in February, the health-care crisis will have dire consequences on the U.S. economy if not handled promptly because of the impact uncontrolled health-care costs will have -- not only on government programs, but also on private insurers, employers and average workers.

Political leaders nationwide are looking to IT to help keep health-care costs in check. Most agree the problems can be overcome, but creating the solutions will be a gigantic task requiring cooperation among all levels of government and private industry.

In this issue, we devote much space to looking at health care in Texas. In Tech Medicine, Contributing Editor Shane Peterson provides an overview of some health initiatives shaping up in the state. And in Sensitive Information, Staff Writer Jessica Weidling looks at an interjurisdictional initiative that shows how cooperation among organizations can help improve care and facilitate information sharing. In the Outer Limits, Technology and Politics Editor Chad Vander Veen interviews Doug Whatley, CEO of BreakAway Federal Systems, a company that's creating interactive technology to train health-care professionals. And on the Forum page, Susan G. McBride, Ph.D., RN, senior vice president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council and president of the Dallas-Forth Worth Hospital Council Foundation, discusses the need for electronic medical records for improving patient safety and care.

The many ways in which IT can reduce costs and improve care are easy to see, but the big question is how to bring the players and pieces together to alter the big picture -- ensuring everyone in America has access to the best care possible without breaking the economy. The future will surely bring a great deal of decision-making and planning to many, if not most, government organizations in Texas. We hope you'll find the articles in this issue -- and future issues -- informative and helpful as you are called upon to address this concern.