Smart cards promote great efficiencies in Europe, Asia

In researching his book, The Healing of America, in which he promotes universal healthcare, Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid visited France to see how that nation's health system worked. Reid came away most impressed with a smart card issued to each resident, containing patient insurance information, reimbursement history, medication lists and, yes, medical records. "For me, the carte vitale...became a symbol of what the French have achieved in designing a health-care system to treat the nation's 61 million residents," Reid writes.

In excerpts published in Newsweek, Reid thankfully tamps down the hype surrounding unproven technologies--though, like so many mainstream reporters somehow equates the Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault platforms with electronic health records. (How many times do I have to tell you, they are not EHRs. They are platforms for building personal health records, and early-stage products at that!) Smart cards like France's carte vitale provide security and portability while also holding down non-medical costs.

The politics of implementing a national ID program in America notwithstanding, smart cards really do shine in the area of administrative efficiency, Reid finds.

"The French, for example, have used the carte vitale since 1998 and have 67 percent fewer administrative personnel per building than a comparable American establishment. Taiwan, which implemented a national health-care system in 1995, spent $108 million to implement a smart-card system in the early 2000s. Their administrative costs are less than 2 percent of total health-care expenditures and possibly the lowest in the world," he writes.

For more:
- read this Newsweek excerpt from Reid's book