Friday, December 9, 2011

Yet another reason health care is bankrupting the nation

Yesterday I took my wife to Rusk Institute, part of NYU's vast medical center, for a rehab evaluation. These visits have been ongoing since her stroke more than eight years ago. We've been to Rusk countless times, and when we checked in she was asked to put her hand on a data reader. For 10 minutes or so, the frustrated receptionist tinkered with the system, and finally began asking her for personal data. This was the third time she has had to go through the drill of filling out the forms. And it's all because of their high-tech "Patient Secure" system.

And I can tell you, folks, this system is so secure, nobody -- not even hospital personnel -- can access it.

The thing just doesn't work. While she was in therapy, I did an informal poll of the various stations where there were hand-print sign-ins, and every single person behind the screen sighed and said, yes, the system is full of glitches. Patients have to keep moving their hand around, and it takes several tries to "read" their palm, if at all. NYU staffers are justifiably frustrated with the system because the medical center likely spent millions to implement it and who knows how much more? to train their personnel. And now the wasted labor due to redundant paperwork is adding even more bucks down the tubes.

NYU medical announced this system earlier in the year with great fanfare, and their literature promises "fast registration for future visits." That's a joke. Sorry. I get very crabby when I see huge IT investments going south. If I were on the board of the med center, I'd be having a stern talk -- or worse -- with the chief technology officer.

The technology is supposed to be 100 times more reliable than fingerprinting; the palm reader supposedly records a portion of the patient's vascular system, which is unique. I can understand why the powers that be shied away from a fingerprint system -- too many patients would opt out due to perceived paranoia about privacy.

But it's obvious that this technology's time has not yet come. It's likely that the NYU hierarchy knows of the problem, but they're hoping it's one of those "let's work out the kinks" situations.

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