I was reading an interesting article from Forbes Magazine on prevalent issues in modern healthcare. The author reviews what she sees as the five biggest problems we are currently facing, and she makes some excellent points. What follows are my observations on what needs to happen to address these issues.
1. Too Much Unnecessary Care
Overuse and unnecessary care accounts for between one-third to one-half of all health care costs, totaling hundreds of billions of dollars, which doesn’t even account for the trillion dollars per year that experts estimate are lost to productivity loss and disability.
Watch any TV station for more than a few minutes and you will probably see several advertisements for drugs. “Ask your doctor for more information”, they say as if they were all reading from the same script.
The only reason that pharmaceutical companies spend so much on advertising is because it pays off. They create a feeling of need in their audience, who then go to their doctor in search of the latest miracle cure. Drug reps work very hard to urge doctors to prescribe their products.
What if, as a society, we became a little less prone to scares? What if we started thinking of medication as a final resort, instead of the first choice that it usually is?
What if doctors and healthcare providers made more money for keeping us healthy than they do for treating the terminally ill? I don’t know how that would work, it just seems that the way that the reward system is set up is pushing us in the wrong direction.
2. Avoidable Harm to Patients
The numbers here are incredible, and by that I mean hard to believe. 25% of Medicare patients suffer some form of harm when they are admitted to a hospital. What if other businesses operated the same way? What if you had a 1 in 4 chance of getting mild to severe food poisoning every time you went to a restaurant? Would you go as frequently? Me neither.
3. Billions of Dollars are Being Wasted
The Institute of Medicine Health suggests that a third or more of health care expenditures are wasted. That means that for every billion dollars we spend on health care,we are spending around $300 million of it needlessly. Since we are spending around $2.6 TRILLION on health care every year, that’s a lot of wasted money. Depending on who you ask, that’s between 800 billion and 1.3 trillion dollars being thrown away every year. Let that sink in for a moment before you read on.
4. Perverse Incentives in How We Pay for Care
Health care providers are paid for the services they provide and not the results they deliver. This leads to recommending expensive procedures and treatments that are not needed and can lead to complications and more treatments.
What would a doctor’s visit be like in a health-driven model as opposed to a treatment-driven model? What would a hospital stay cost? What would our insurance premiums be? What would it cost to have a baby?
5. Lack of Transparency
There’s far more information readily available on what movies are currently playing that there is on where to go for lifesaving care. Why is it so difficult to get honest, unbiased and complete information on potential health care provider?
I believe it be traced to several reasons, two of which are that we don’t demand that sort of access to that type of information, and that providers are hesitant to release information that could potentially damage their revenue sources.
How to Start Fixing the Issues
These are just a handful of some of the generalized problems that health care in the US faces. I believe that the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there is one. As a society, let’s start asking for better information. Let’s ask for waste to be eliminated in spending. Let’s demand true health care, as opposed to just management of the sick. Let’s start conversations that will get the wheels turning in the right direction.