Healthcare today – Quantity over Quality?

Now you may have noticed that despite having threatened to do so when I first started this blog, my forays into the discussion of politics have been fairly minimal. There are a number of reasons for this: 1) I have a number of friends from various stages in my life who *gasp* aren’t liberals. Shocking, I know. And while I may disagree (often strongly, and occasionally vociferously) with their beliefs on any number of topics, I respect that their experiences and priorities/values have led them to different conclusions than mine have led me. Besides to be perfectly honest (because, you know, apparently I wasn’t being honest before), I find as I get older that I’m just not interested in getting into fights – or even loud disagreements – with people anymore. I’m not going to change your mind. You aren’t going to change mine. And frankly, my memory is crap so I usually forget all the great statistics I’ve read that back up my position. So there.

Second, for better or worse I’m Facebook friends with a lot of people who I know through my work – some of whom I would gladly go have a beer several beers with any time we’re in the same town, others of whom I know very slightly (if I’ve met them at all), and a wide range in between. For the record, yes, I am fully aware of the security settings and (on occasion) take advantage of them. We can argue about the relative merits of my out of control Facebook list another time and how and when a mass de-friending is in order with offending people.

My point is: I try not to say anything that will get me into *too* much trouble, but I’m hopeful that most appreciate this forum to be the personal outlet that it is. (Separate tangent: please do not bother to send me all the stories of people who have been fired for things they thought they were private. I am well aware of them, and also aware that I take a risk by continuing this blog.) However, there are a few areas where sometimes, I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Some of you are probably surprised that it hasn’t happened more often. To you, I say: Be nice. It isn’t polite to point out someone else’s faults.

This extremely long preamble is a lead-in to an interesting article that I read recently. My friend Paul works for the organization Healthcare for All, which focuses on creating “a consumer-centered health care system that provides comprehensive, affordable, accessible, culturally competent, high quality care and consumer education for everyone, especially the most vulnerable.”

For the record, this is NOT a post about what some of you call “Obama-care.” We can get into that debate another time, thank you very much. So please stop shouting at your computer screen and listen to me for a second. The article (“My View: Speak out for quality health care“) highlights some of the ways our current health care system perpetuates undesirable results.

The article struck a chord in me. As many of you know, I’ve had more than my fair share of experience with the medical community.  I’ve had the opportunity to observe it from many different angles. Given my situation, I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has a surplus of world-class hospitals, and believe me when I tell you that I’ve taken advantage of it. And in my travels there are a number of things I’ve observed:

-Individual doctors care about the health of their individual patients, but I’m not sure I can say the same about the *system* as it is currently designed

– It can be damn difficult to get all the proper notes to the proper people when you’re dealing with multiple specialists. For this reason alone, I refuse to deal with anyone outside my hospital cluster, no matter how much I like them or how good a doctor I think they are.

– Doctors don’t trust tests conducted by labs other than their own. This can lead to unnecessary repeated tests.

– Malpractice issues have risen so high that doctors routinely order tests that may not be strictly called for “just in case.”

And I won’t even go into the burden unnecessary ER visits by the uninsured and underinsured cost the health care system.

The article by Health Care for All’s Executive Director, Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, proposes that we need to turn our current incentive scheme on its head. Instead of paying for volume, let’s pay for value. Instead of quantity, let’s reward quality. Doctors should be paid as much for keeping their patients healthy by providing preventative care or advice as for diagnosing an illness or condition.

I like it. We need to try something different to control the cost of health care, and I think that a paradigm shift of this nature would go a long way toward addressing those needs. What do you think?

One thought on “Healthcare today – Quantity over Quality?

  1. Pingback: Have you Google+ed yet? « Practical Whimsy

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