Thursday, March 6, 2008

Too much of medicine is stuck in the 1950s

I have a question/idea.

I'm hoping to go into medicine. So I read a lot of people's opinions of doctors, and their mistakes, etc. You know, figure out what I should keep in mind. One thing I notice is that a lot of people complain that doctors just have a few medications that they prescribe for everything, and that medication interactions are common, especially if you're taking a lot of different meds. It's understandable; there's like a thousand plus medications on the market and doctors aren't perfect.

The thing about this, though, is, I can't help thinking it would be really easy to fix. All the doctors I've seen have a laptop they carry in to their session with me, so they can check my old medical records against my new info, update their records, etc, without having to carry in folders (they print out a hard copy later, I presume, they have files too). Anyway, they have a laptop right in front of them. Couldn't somebody come up with a program for doctors that enables them to enter a medication name and it immediately comes up with what the meds can treat, what they are normally prescribed for, their various approval ratings (government, etc), their prices, any recent recalls or class-action suits, any side-effects, and any interactions with other drugs? And couldn't that same program be modified so that a doctor could enter the diagnosis, say, "chronic joint pain," and would be immediately provided with a list of medications commonly prescribed to treat chronic joint pain? You could maybe even do a cross-referencing program so that doctors could list current medications and the ones with interactions would be eliminated from the list, for people with lots of medication (obviously unnecessary for someone who's taking only a few pills, but if you get an elderly woman with 25 medications she's on...).

Doctors could prescribe generics when people don't have sufficient insurance to cover the name-brand ones, because they would have access to the generic brand names. Of course, insured people would still get name-brands, because they've proven that the placebo effect means name-brands can work better. They could double-check prescriptions very quickly and could learn if a medication someone was on could be causing symptoms. Better care, less problems to fix down the road, insurance companies win. Better care, patients win. Slight reduction in malpractice lawsuits, happier patients, and more memory space to devote to diagnosing techniques, doctors win. Even pharmaceutical companies would benefit because they could get their lesser-known drugs out and prescribed to patients who are always getting their competitor's medication. Okay, that might be a stretch.

But in the end, if the only people who suffer are pharmaceutical companies and only in the fact that they couldn't get doctors who were quite as devoted to them due to knowing of the top of their heads that they didn't have a lot of recalls or anything, I say that's a win. I have no idea why this hasn't been created and put into widespread use yet. It's not like we don't have the ability, there are online sites that basically do the same thing, but doctors are still relying on memory (at least mine are).

If any computer programmer wants to design this and sell it for millions, feel free to steal my idea, no royalties required. I'd be benefiting as much as anyone.

Now, anyone want to tell me why this wouldn't work, or wouldn't be popular, or how my doctors are actually idiots and there already is something like this out there?

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