In 1939, at the onset of WWII, my father was a practicing Doctor and Surgeon in Birmingham (UK) and had been appointed Head of Medical Services for the city as it prepared for The Battle of Britain. So, I have been an interested observer of health care issues since childhood, and have maintained a keen interest in them since coming to live full time on Orcas Island.
My working life was spent participating in the remarkable evolution of electronics since WWII and then through the growth of digital data processing systems. Today such systems perform amazing feats of data acquisition, manipulation and presentation to end users. But, of course, as such systems grow more and more capable, their complexity and cost also grow.
It has always been difficult to provide good health care in a rural environment – a high proportion of residents are older and no longer working, and inflation drives down the value of their savings. They suffer from a variety of age-related complaints and are not very mobile – often house-bound. And, they are spread about the countryside. Thus, providing services is less efficient, and so more expensive than in the city. The working environment is less attractive for the medical provider, particularly younger professionals. Our doctor’s surgeries on Orcas have many years of first-hand experience with these problems.
Today, good comprehensive health care is becoming ever-more expensive – both for the modern doctor’s tools and the information systems that support them. The only practical way to deal with this problem is to gather ever larger groups of patients into integrated groups using modern data processing equipment and facilities. Orcas Islanders would surely be advised to make the change sooner while they have some degree of influence over its introduction and “grow with it!”
Lucky for us, we have those in our community who are seizing the chance to bring this about. As they hack through the jungles of bureaucracy and local politics, they deserve our appreciation and our utmost support!
S. John Gorton