Is the National Healthcare Information Network Our Bridge to Nowhere?

Scientists turned on the largest machine ever made, the Hadron Collider. It’s a proton accelerator. This all takes place in a donut-shaped underground tube that is 17 miles in circumference.

Fears about the collider centered on two things; black holes and the danger posed by weird hypothetical particles, strangelets, that critics said could transform the Earth almost instantly into a dead, dense lump. Physicists calculated that the chances of this catastrophe were negligible, based on astronomical evidence and assumptions about the physics of the strangelets. One report put the odds of a strangelet disaster at less than one in 50 million, less than a chance of winning some lottery jackpots—what they failed to acknowledge is that someone always wins the lottery, so negligible risk exists only in the mind of the beholder.

If I understand the physics correctly from my Physics for Librarians mail-order course—and that’s always a big if—once these protons accelerate to something close to the speed of light, when they collide, the force of the collision causes the resultant mass to have a density so massive that it creates a gravitational field from which nothing can escape. The two protons become a mini black hole. And so forth and so on. Pascal’s triangle on steroids. Two to the nth power (2ⁿ) forever. Every proton, neutron, electron, car, house, and so on.

The collider could do exactly what it was designed to do. Self-fulfilling self-destruction. In actuality, if the collider does exactly what it was designed to do we will never know it because there will be no ‘we’.  Technology run amuck. Let’s personalize it. Instead of a collider, let’s build a national healthcare information network capable of handling millions of transfers a day. What are the rules of engagement?  Turn on the lights and let’s see how it functions.

Let’s say we need to get anybody’s record to anybody’s doctor.  That’s overly simplistic, but if we can’t make sense out of it at this level, the national healthcare information network is doomed.  The number of possible permutations among doctors and patients, although not infinite, is bigger than big.  Can you see what can happen? Strangelets.  The giant sucking sound you’ll hear will come from ARRA and stimulus money as it is pulled in to the black hole.

So what has the thought leadership done to fight the strangelets? It created healthcare information exchanges (HIEs)—mini national networks.  Not only does their plan have them repeating the same flawed approach, they are relying on embedding the same bad idea, and doing it using hundreds of different blueprints.

I thought we had this thing called the internet that you transfer data securely from any point to any other point.  Based on recent news stories I am willing to be that the NSA may have an idea or two about how to tap into somebody’s healthcare data without having to build a national healthcare information network.

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