Letters to the Editor

Too much healthcare knowledge lost

Even at the age of 91, I can write an opinion piece for this newspaper in about an hour. Data from respected institutions and researchers show that the following things occur in the United States during each hour.

▪ Sixty-eight people die from heart disease, our number one cause of mortality for over 75 years.

▪ Sixty-five succumb to cancer, our number two killer during the same decades.

▪ Twenty-seven women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and 18 of them will get treatments that don’t work. Up to 46 people die due to medical mistakes. Nine people die because their care is not at the level considered best-performing.

During the same hour, $319 million is spent on health care; $86 million of those funds are wasted. A recent research finding will make it .00067 percent of the way from “bench to bedside.” And a dangerous drug will cover .0023 percent of its journey to being pulled from the market.

Little of this is new. The data are well-known in the health policy community. What’s new is the promise of information technology to create easy access for doctors and patients to what works best.

Today, research shows that just over ten percent of your doctor’s recommendations are based on A-level evidence. The bulk is anecdotal guesswork.

The government has invested over $30 billion to subsidize the proliferation of information technology.

One visible result is the electronic health record created in the medical office or hospital.

Nowhere is the gap between data and intelligence more evident than in healthcare. The myriad data systems are neither standardized nor interoperable. Meaningful use of the knowledge is elusive. So, for example, the lessons learned about what works and doesn’t, in 97 percent of adult cancer patients, are lost.

The Department of Health and Human Services has a ten-year strategic vision to address this problem. After a commitment of over $30 billion, another decade is inexcusably slow. Those 46 folks dying each hour due to misdiagnosis and errors become four million over ten years.

The hourly cost in human lives and in dollars of failing to learn, capture, and share what works in medicine is eye-popping. The cost per decade is indefensible.

Joseph Kanter, chair, The Kanter Family Foundation, Fisher Island