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Posts Tagged ‘Hospitals’

The federal government is offering incentives ($19 billion worth) for doctors and hospitals to go electronic with their records. Given that other major industries such as the stock market and airlines have gone paperless in an effort to become more efficient and save money, we have to wonder what is really holding back the medical field.

The reason lies neither with cost nor with inadequate technology. Rather, the health-care industry’s reluctance to digitize its records is rooted in a desire to keep medicine’s lucrative business model hidden. Dangling $19 billion in front of a $2.4 trillion industry is not nearly enough to get it to reveal the financial secrets that electronic health records are likely to uncover–and upon which its huge profits depend. In those medical records lie the ugly truth about the business of medicine: sickness is profitable. The greater the number of treatments, procedures, and hospital stays, the larger the profit. There is little incentive for doctors and hospitals to identify or reduce wasteful spending in medicine.

There is not much incentive for people to adopt healthy lifestyles with the system as it currently is implemented.

An even bigger threat to the sickness industry’s business model is that by allowing automated tracking of patients over time, electronic health records would set the stage for early detection and preventive medicine. Currently, the entire industry is organized around treating sickness, rather than keeping people healthy in the first place.

It would be a step in the right direction, however, it would be ineffective unless the data gained from such a system is used to reward/punish individuals based on choices. So, you’ve got high blood pressure and refuse to take your meds – pay more. Enjoy smoking and refuse to quit – pay more. Etc., etc. One area likely to see a huge benefit is cancer screening, since earlier detection equals a better, and cheaper outcome.

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It would be great if every person who graduated medical school was equally talented in all areas. Sadly, that is not the case. Given that many insurance companies limit the doctors available to see, it is more important than ever to have a way of choosing the right doctor for your needs; especially if you need a doctor with a certain specialization. Many ratings systems are incomplete, inefficient, and still in their infancy.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Determine if you have special needs (eg. diabetes) or if you are just looking for routine check ups.
  • In addition to internists, primary care physicians usually have a good network of specialists for referrals.
  • Check to see if those physicians are on your health plan, which hospitals they are affiliated with, and convenient in terms of travel and scheduling.
  • Try to get a physician who is board certified in whichever specialty is important for your needs.

The bottom line:

“Do your research,” said Dr. Samantha Collier, the chief medical officer for HealthGrades. “Don’t assume all physicians are equally skilled. More importantly, they need to be a good match for you. I hear so many patients tell me they really don’t like their doctor or trust their doctor but they keep going back. That is ridiculous. This is one of the most important relationships you’re ever going to have — you need to feel completely comfortable.”

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