Quality of care more important than technology

Published 11:57 pm Friday, December 14, 2012

I read, with some dismay, the Dec. 11, 2012, Andalusia Star-News front-page article entitled “Florala hospital improving technology.” It was accompanied by two front-page photos. The first photo shows a nurse smiling while cradling two cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. The second shows a doctor pointing out film x-rays. I should point out that CRT monitors are so obsolete that, while I was working for the Andalusia Christian Service Center, a wonderful thrift center that does so much for the needy, so many CRT monitors were donated that we could barely give them away. I was elated when we got $5 for one. Furthermore, film x-rays are soon becoming obsolete. I was receiving digital x-rays during my shoulder surgery eight years ago at Emory University Hospital, Atlanta, and have always received digital dental x-rays for at least 10 years prior to coming to Andalusia, where I relived my childhood when the dentist gave me film x-rays.

While these two old technologies are not a measure of either good or poor care, they do not by any means represent technology improvement. Digital x-rays can easily and cheaply be transferred electronically to anywhere in the world within seconds, while film x-rays, unless they have developed a scanning technique which would be redundant and inefficient, would have to be delivered by hardcopy. I would bet The Andalusia Star-News took the photos in this article with a digital camera, not film.

In fairness to Florala Hospital, the article does point out that the hospital has implemented at least one technology improvement (regarding automated medication management), and has done other improvements to better care for its customers, the patients.

Obviously, of more importance than technology is the quality of care as measured by many well-known performance measures (used by U.S. News and World Report, for example), which are used to rate hospitals objectively on the quality of their care. I have always obtained superb care with local doctors in Andalusia and at the Andalusia Hospital. My face would be permanently scarred due to a crash if not for the excellent skill of the Andalusia Hospital immediately thereafter. I recall that the hospital used to, and maybe still does, advertise its national ranking on highway billboards. However, I have known two people to have gone to the hospital with life-threatening injuries and life flight was in route minutes later to take these individuals to a hospital that could properly treat them. It is somewhat inconvenient, if not scary, to live in a city without many types of specialty doctors that are needed in an emergency and for such services to be at least 90 miles away in most cases.


Walter Boyd, P.E.