Anyone who has worked in the health care field for the last few decades knows that the state of information technology lags far behind other sectors of society and commerce. Despite the fact that there are many systems and vendors to choose from, most are so far from perfect as to force users to spew out daily frustrated rantings of four letter expletives.
I suspect you would find many doctors and nurses and other health care providers who feel they would be better off using pen and paper. But the world changes and electronic technology, for better or worse, is here to stay in the health care field.
Those of us who have been dealing with daily health care information technology challenges knew that the rollout of the new health care exchanges would not be smooth. It didn't take an information technology expert to know that when you have millions of people connect to a new system that there will be lots of unforeseen problems. And there were.
I do not want to minimize the enrollment problems because they were quite serious. But we have to remember that these problems, whether preventable or not, can mostly be placed on the doorstep of the tech people who did the work to prepare for the exchange rollout.
The public needs to keep its perspective in this matter. They have to realize that this new way of buying health insurance is about health insurance and health care, it is not about health care technology. Technology is the tool our society now relies on to interface with almost every aspect of daily life.
Sure, we have come to expect perfection from technology, but we have to remember that is it only a tool and that we have to constantly keep our eyes on the final goal of any project. We may be trying to save a life in a hospital and we have to remember that the technology is only as good as the people using it.
We also have to remind ourselves that providers can function without technology if they have to because they carry around most of the tools of their trade in their brains. The crashing of a computer system does not usually mean someone dies, it means that someone has to deal with delay and frustration.
In the world of insurance enrollment people can still sign up for the new insurance exchange options using pen and paper. In Vermont, navigators have been trained so that they do not have to rely on technology to get the job done for people. There is no immediate hurry for enrollment because the plans do not start coverage until January and people can enroll until the end of March 2014. The technology should be in better shape by then.
Then there is the political perspective on the exchange rollout. Critics loudly proclaim the failure of Obamacare because of the flawed rollout. It is an excuse for them to slam a system that is having trouble because it has proven to be so popular.
The reason that the technology has been overloaded is because a large number of Americans have realized that this new kind of insurance just might make their lives a little better and they want to sign up. That is the real story about the overwhelming demand for bandwidth.
Most people will be better off once they sign up for new insurance products in the exchanges. They will generally have better coverage at lower prices. That is the real story, the story that the opposition is trying to drown out. Once the technology glitches are worked out and enrollment is smoother, it will be difficult for critics to trash a program with such a high demand. And when Americans start using their new insurance without pre-existing condition restrictions and lifetime limits on care will the critics still try to take it away from them?
Richard Davis is a registered nurse and long-time health care advocate. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.