December 16, 2005

DOH = doh!

Over at Kassie brings her incisive wit to bear on the NYC Department of Health, which is instituting a program requiring all labs in the city to report all A1C results with the name and contact information of the patient. The DOH’s fantasy is that it can monitor areas and individuals whose "control is poor" and intervene in a positive way, e.g. (I suppose) by sending us greeting cards with photographs of persons connected to dialysis machines as a friendly reminder. Oh, they’re going to call us too. Nice.

Privacy, shmivacy. The government has a huge financial interest in reducing diabetic complications, so they’re taking action based on their understanding of how those complications come about, Bill of Rights be damned. The data will supposedly not be available to insurance companies. Yet. And individual patients will supposedly be able to opt out of the program. I can just picture the feasibility scenario there:

HARRIED LAB WORKER: Must upload data to the DOH, must upload data, must upload data…

HARRIED LAB WORKER #2: Wait, this one is marked "Patient declines to participate. Do not send data."



What pisses me off the most is that, as Kassie, Shannon, and other commenters on Kassie’s post have pointed out, this is a really stupid way to expend resources. Anybody who is already going to the doctor to have their A1C done can be given improved education about self care at…um…yeah, the doctor’s office! From medical professionals of the patient’s own choosing! The people who already have access to the private information the city will now be collecting by force of law!
The city should take those funds and use them to ensure that doctors and nurses, especially at primary care practices (where a great many type 2 diabetics in particular get most of their medical care), receive continual updates on all facets of diabetes treatment and patient education.

Oh, wait. That wouldn’t cover the recalcitrant types who get their A1C now and then but not often enough. Yeah, I guess the city is right. A big draconian database is the only solution. It wouldn’t work, for example, to earmark funds for doctor’s offices to do their own follow-up with patients with diabetes. No, that would just be wrong.

Is the ostensible purpose of this program a screen for something else? I wonder how much a list of the name and contact information of every PWD in New York City would be worth to a pharmaceutical company, a health insurance provider (for prescreening applicants? or how about coverage based on how well you're "managing" your disease?), or even major employers who shoulder enormous burdens in health costs. Okay, so I’m straying into X-Files paranoia here. (Hey, that's it! Maybe it’s aliens who want a diabetes database!) But why not? When the government stomps on my privacy, I’m naturally going to wonder why. And I haven’t heard a good explanation yet.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Bill of Rights be dammed.

    Ahhh... America in 2005.

    Thanks for your insight-- I really really appreciate it.


  3. Violet, I read this post a couple of days ago, and simply could not comment.

    It was just too damn upsetting.

    You are so on the mark here, and it is truly insane that any number of people at the NYC DOH would think that this is a GOOD idea.

    Spend money on TRACKING persons with diabetes rather than funding those who support them... hmmmm... and the government is in a better position to offer guidance, because there are oh-so-very many endocrinologists working the phones over at the DOH!

    They are either completely out of their minds-- one large mass of bureaucratic fools -- or they're in cahoots with pharmaceutical/insurance companies.

    Regardless, the whole think stinks of Big Brother.

    Sorry for the rant, but we had a pretty bad night over here, so I'm just itchin' for a fight.

  4. That's Crap.

    Wait, let me reiterate in a more definitive manner:

    That's a heaping, steaming pile of bull poop!

    I am not well versed in the health care regulations in the there not an act protecting your personal & private information?? I could understand collecting statistical information, but providing your contact information and in fact any identifying personal information is stepping way over the line. Consent or no consent.

    Crap. Pure, unadulterated crap.