Friday, October 28, 2011

Why Does Warner Todd Huston Hate Private Enterprise?

A popular, veteran doctor from central Illinois has been sidelined by employer (Springfield-based) Memorial Health System because he has not become proficient with the electronic medical records system that they purchased and implemented. Patients are so incensed that they’ve started a Facebook page as well as a blog to rally to his defense. This situation brings into focus the problem of top-down medical solutions, calling into question the efficacy of healthcare by committee, not to mention Obamacare itself. Do we really want to sacrifice good doctors in favor of good followers of top-down rules? Do we want good computer operators or excellent doctors?

The doctor, Steven Kottemann, 63, was placed on paid administrative leave in September because he was allegedly not properly utilizing the new electronic medical records system that his employer, Family Medical Center, instituted. Kotteman initially tried to upload verbal recordings of his notes made when meeting with patients, but the system failed to accept the recordings. The only other option was to type in by hand all his patient notes. Kottemann tried to input the notes while actually with his patients but eventually came to feel that typing at a computer while trying to work with his patients was not conducive to good care.

Dr. Kottemann then began staying late after office hours to type in all the notes, but due to a stroke of his own, the effort became too much for him. “It got to the point where I was going in seven days a week to keep up,” Kottemann told the State-Register newspaper. For its part, the employer says that Kottemann’s lack of proficiency with the computer system was not the only reason they fired him, but Memorial Medical Center refused to comment further on this story when I contacted them.
While Huston sees a sob story of how government regulation is choking a hard-working businessman, I see something different - a business (Memorial Medical Center) suspending an employee (Dr. Kottermann) for not being able to perform his job appropriately.  Management for the hospital paid for a new electronic medical records system and required all of its employees to become proficient, but Dr. Kottermann could not adapt to the decisions made by his bosses and was placed on paid administrative leave.

Think of it this way - an old-fashioned supermarket buys all new electronic point of sale (POS) terminals.  An older cashier customers have grown to love has a hard time adapting to the new electronic POS.  He is slow and he is holding up the lines because he is having difficulty adapting - he would rather go back to the old system where he felt he was able to provide a better level of service but that is not an option.  Other doctors are able to provide that great service and use the new POS terminals.  Management notices the old cashier's problems and so they counsel him and try to work with him so that he can get to where he needs to be but it just is not working.  The only solution left is to remove the cashier from his position.

Dr. Kotterman is that old cashier.  I bet there were situations like this 30 years ago when bar codes were introduced.  Heck - not too long ago 7-11s adopted laser scanner POSs instead of their old manual entry registers.  Some of the older employees had a longer time adjusting but now when I stop into a 7-11, the checkout is faster and more accurate.

Huston also points out that Dr. Kottermann's poor performance with the computerized system may stem from his health problems.  Huston apparently is insinuating that businesses should make special accommodations for the handicapped.  He also insists that the good doctor is being stifled by management.

Sounds as if Huston wants employees to have some sort of basic rights or that he has a grudge with employers.  He points out in his post that Kottermann's employer stated there were additional reasons as to why they placed him on administrative leave but they would not communicate that with him - probably because this is an employer-employee conversation and Huston has no place injecting himself in between the company's internal problems.

Funny.  Aren't those his complaints against Obama/Democrats/unions/etc.?

What's even funnier is the comment thread on Huston's post - many of the sheep are crying about discriminatory practices and how the doctor should sue.

Maybe he is fighting to get Doctor Kotterman reinstated so he can make a second triumphant post titled "Welcome Back Doctor Kotterman!"

Did I forget to mention that Memorial Medical Center is a community-based not-for-profit corporation?  

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