Tuesday, May 30, 2006

PACS, the WIKIpedia, and other musings from the Baltic Sea

At this very moment, I am on a ship traveling up the east coast of Sweden en route to Stockholm. This trip required my son to miss his championship baseball game, but one of the other dads was kind enough to email us the results. (My son’s team lost, unfortunately.) The communications link went something like this: My friend emailed the play-by-play from the field via his Blackberry. The messages went to the Internet, which I picked up in my cabin, where my laptop is also connected to the Internet via satellite. Now my connection is running at dial-up speeds, which gets really frustrating, but, on the other hand, I’m really tickled that I can be on a ship (at that time headed toward Oslo) and get email from someone at a baseball field in South Carolina. Oh, Brave New World.

The Internet probably has done more to unite humanity than any other single factor in history, as illustrated by my little vignette. A more practical and useful example would perhaps be the Wikipedia. This is a collaborative effort, basically involving anyone who wants to participate, to catalogue the world’s knowledge. Anyone can write an article, and anyone can edit the Wikipedia. You do have to be prepared to back up your contribution with facts, and you must credit any photos you submit. I have made my mark on the Wiki by altering the paragraph on PACS architecture to include to concept of Web-based PACS. No doubt it will be edited further, but I feel I have had my 15 minutes of fame.

So far, we have been to Oslo and to Copenhagen. Both are spectacular cities. Oslo is a little more stark in some ways, but I found it to be more compelling. It seems to be overall a more peaceful place, but it’s hard to get much more than just a subjective feeling in a few hours.

Norway has a great deal of oil money from the North Sea fields, and it taxes its citizens quite heavily. Still, the Norwegians enjoy numerous benefits, including socialized medicine. They do have a co-pay for doctor visits, but there is then a major-medical plan that takes over if necessary. There is apparently a growing wait for some non-emergency services, but no one in Norway goes without health care. Period.

I have been a very loud opponent of socialized medicine for most of my career, but I am at the very early stages of thinking it inevitable. I look at the American system, and I see how it is being gutted and deformed and derailed by greed and fear, by self-referral on the part of some doctors, and by gluttony for unneeded services on the part of some patients. We cannot go on forever like this. When I hear about how well a system like that in Norway is working, I have to wonder if theirs is the right way after all.

Forgive my melancholy. It’s a beautiful night on calm seas. I’m going to enjoy it. Thanks for listening. Oh, and by the way, thanks for your ever-increasing readership of this blog. May isn’t even over, and it has topped all previous months for numbers of visitors and page-hits. Maybe I’m at least keeping you guys amused, huh? I’m very grateful for your interest, and I hope you feel your time here is well-spent.

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