Friday, July 31, 2009

Swine Flu Requires Serious Medicine--and Serious IT

Reporters, as well as supporters and critics, have all noted that Barack Obama has started describing his proposal as "health insurance reform." Which is to say, Obama, under pressure from Blue Dog skeptics in his own party, is now striving to make his once-bold plan seem more and more economical and thus presumably less threatening to moderates. Of course, in euphemizing his language, he risks euthanizing his proposal--he is making his plan seem, frankly, boring--can anyone be expected to go to the barricades on behalf of "health insurance reform"? (Now, of course, some argue that "health insurance reform" is just a rhetorical figleaf for "single payer," and that should keep some people awake, but SMS suspects that the snooze factor of "health insurance reform" will overcome the stealth-cleverness factor.

But in the meantime, there big doings in the realm of Serious Medicine. An article in Forbes tipped SMS off to the existence of a cool website dedicated to tracking Swine Flu (see map above). The work of Dr. Henry Niman, helped along by Rhiza Labs and Google, is a reminder that while politicians in Washington are wrestling over "health insurance reform," medical scientists--now joined by IT experts--are wrestling with matters of life and death. If reports that as much as 40% of the US population could catch swine flu, well, that's a reminder that when we get through horsing around with "health insurance reform," the real work of Serious Medicine will still be waiting to be continued.

Health insurance reform, and health care policy in general, are certainly important. And it's worth exploring ways to rationalize coverage, get everyone covered, eliminate price-gouging and so on. But it's more important that Serious Medicine go forward.

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