Obama's Team Taps Online Tools To Push Health Care Reform

On Wednesday, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for HHS secretary, launched a high-tech effort by the incoming administration to "lay the groundwork" to overhaul health care, the Washington Post reports.

On a conference call with 1,000 Obama supporters who have expressed interest in health issues, Daschle discussed how the transition team and administration will use the Internet -- including online videos, blogs and e-mail alerts -- to initiate a grassroots effort.

Obama's staff will use the Internet in other areas but chose to begin with health care because "every American is feeling the pressure of high health costs and lack of quality care, and we feel it's important to engage them in the process of reform," transition team spokesperson Stephanie Cutter said.

The online effort began with a 63-second video posted on Change.gov, in which health advisers Dora Hughes and Lauren Aronson posed the question, "What worries you most about the health care system in our country?"

The video triggered 3,700 responses, which were turned into a "word cloud," featuring the 100 most frequently used terms. The cloud's largest words -- those that were used most frequently -- include "insurance," "system," "people" and "need." The feature also was interactive, allowing participants to reply to other users' comments and rate responses.

A second video, featuring Daschle, already has been created. In the video, Daschle said, "We want to make sure you understand how important those comments and your contributions are," adding, "Already we've begun to follow through with some of the ideas."

Andrew Rasiej, co-founder of Personal Democracy Forum, said, "It will be a lot easier to get the American public to adopt any new health care system if they were a part of the process of crafting it" (Connolly, Washington Post, 12/4).

Paul Smith
As a physician, I'm quite pleased to see where we all are going. I'd like to share one concern that will impact one of the solutions using upcoming technology, that is telemedicine. This brings to the patient all of the resources of a tertiary care center, but ... there is a major obstacle: CREDENTIALING. The physician giving the opinion is not (legally) the treating physician, at best he is perhaps a consultant. Should this physician's recommendations be applied by the local physician who then asssumes (according to legal doctrine) the expertise of the pphysician at the other end of the telemedicine session. As a rule credentialing is done on the experience with that condition an MD had the previous year, a condition that is unlikely to be met by physicians in a tertiary center dealing with issues occuring in a remote area. One aspect that you might tackle might be credentialing for physicians using telemedicine to treat patients so they assume responsibility for their actions.

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