January 12, 2010 Denmark Leads the Way in Digital Care By SINDYA N. BHANOO COPENHAGEN — Jens Danstrup, a 77-year-old retired architect, used to bike all around town. But years of smoking have weakened his lungs, and these days he finds it difficult to walk down his front steps and hail a taxi for a doctor’s appointment. Now, however, he can go to the doctor without leaving home, using some simple medical devices and a notebook computer with a Web camera. He takes his own weekly medical readings, which are sent to his doctor via a Bluetooth connection and automatically logged into an electronic record. “You see how easy it is for me?” Mr. Danstrup said, sitting at his desk while video chatting with his nurse at Frederiksberg University Hospital, a mile away. “Instead of wasting the day at the hospital?”
Well, who knows what may eventually happen here? We don’t even yet have a national health care system, but it’s promised.
I have for years been advocating a system that relied more upon medical technicians providing initial (as well as long-term) care, hooked up by the Internet to doctors. Would it be gold-plated? Hardly. Would it get primary care to those who use emergency rooms as their local doctor of last resort? You bet. So, maybe good old liberal, socialist Denmark has a part of the answer, should we shake off our knee-jerk reactions to socialized medicine.
After all, we socialized our banking system without a murmur. If there is a hope with this mish-mash that purports to be national health care that’s about to be handed down, warts and all, from our overfed and over-rewarded legislators, it’s that we may (over time) be able to tweak the model. No model, no tweak. No national plan, no opportunity to perfect it.
Either way, with or without a national plan, health costs are about to jump out of the closet in the middle of the night, scare us to death and overwhelm the system. We’re going to need every small model of cost-containment we can find. One model may be working in Copenhagen.