The mind works in mysterious ways. While thinking about possible future scenarios for US healthcare after the Supreme Court announced its decision on the constitutionality of healthcare reform, I was watching a show on the History Channel from the series Modern Marvels. They were showing a program from 2007 called “Dams”. One of the segments featured the collapse of the nearly completed Teton Dam in eastern Idaho on June 5, 1976. The dam was an earthen bulwark dam built by the Bureau of Reclamation, a government organization well experienced in dam building, having built both the Hoover and Grand Coulee Dams.
Water was building up in the reservoir behind the dam although the spillway was not yet functioning. The slow seeping of water from the dam was not unexpected for an earthen bulwark dam. But when the seeping became a fissure and the fissure swallowed the bulldozers, the engineers knew they had a catastrophic failure on their hands. The complete collapse of the dam wiped out 3 towns and killed 11 people. The consequences would have been much greater without an early warning.
The investigation that followed never pinpointed the specific cause of the failure. The overall cost was probably upwards of $2 billion. Engineers said that significant learning came from the disaster and that a combination of geological factors and design decisions probably were responsible.
What will come in the future from health care reform is the subject of major political debate. This blog is not about the politics. It’s about the engineering that must take place in order to handle the floodwaters that will come.
News outlets where I live in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) of Texas say that approximately 35% of our residents don’t have health insurance. That comes to 447,000 people. Texas overall ranks 40th in the number of physicians per 100,000 people — 152 compared to a 196 national average. In the RGV, we have just 119 per 100,000. With a little quick math, that means we will need another 531.9 physicians to maintain the current service level/physician ration with the increase in people seeking regular care from a physician.
Our health care engineers need to start thinking about how to deal with these floodwaters before a fissure becomes a catastrophe. We need to work to reduce the chances of a combination of geographic factors and bad design decisions. Health care facilities need to start working with their consulting partners to address these issues.
If you need a trusted partner and think that now is the time, please call us. We are ready to listen!
Written by Debi Warner, Clinical Librarian, Anthelio Healthcare Solutions
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