President Obama's speech yesterday at the Inauguration yesterday was a good one for me. When was the last time you heard an incoming President actually mention science, health and technology? I posted the full text of the speech on my Tumblog, but here is the except that excited and surprised me:
wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will
harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our
factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and
universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And
all this we will do."
Now, I'm not sure what science's rightful place is, but at least a President who is not afraid of it and is willing to debate the merits is an excellent start. With regards to technology in health care, my sense is that it tends to increase costs not lower it, although I'm willing to have an open mind on that. There was an interesting article in this morning's WSJ Health blog about encouraging e-prescribing amongst physicians for Medicare drugs:
patients over to e-prescribing. Some private health plans also have
begun offering extra payments along with free equipment, such as
digital handheld devices. And a coalition of technology companies is
giving doctors free software to encourage them to ditch their paper
prescription pads. As a result, the number of physicians prescribing
medicines electronically has more than doubled in the past year to
about 70,000, or about 12% of all office-based doctors."
This is all very interesting and I'm sure it reduces the number of prescribing errors from mis-read or poorly written prescriptions, but whether costs are saved (other than trees) is another matter entirely.
Science and technology can definitely improve healthcare in the form of improved quality of life or longer survival times for cancer patients, for example. This is usually accompanied by an increase in price and overall costs, just as many other goods and services increase over time. With the oil crisis forever in people's mnds, science and technology can probably most impact the environment and future energy sources. Scientific American posted an interesting article on that very topic recently.
Either way, we begin with a bright new day, a new President and hope for the future. I can't help wondering what a better situation we might have been had Reagan had the foresoght and imagination to spend serious dollars on science and technology for health or energy resources instead of missiles and the Star Wars space screens 20 years ago. Each new Administration may do their work in the present, but their actions (and lack of them) affect future generations significantly.
They will ultimately be judged and remembered by their lasting legacy.