USA Healthcare’s Biggest Problems
I just lost another friend – her name was Rox – to an array of health complications after her body began shutting down. She fought the good fight for quite some time. What bugs me most is that she started feeling bad a year or two prior. The symptoms began getting worse despite all the visits, tests, hospital stays, and different prescriptions. All her trusted Doctors and the “best” hospitals in the world who saw her never figured out the root cause of her problems, which began to compound. That’s BS and makes me angry every time I think about her.
A Disturbing Pattern and Lack of Accountability
I’ve lost at least a dozen friends who went down the same dark path of non-recovery, some after years of intense but useless and agonizingly painful “treatments.” The Hospitals, drug companies, and doctors were all paid absurd cash for complete failure. Imagine if auto and aircraft mechanics failed regularly to diagnose and fix problems but still got paid handsomely.
Our investor-owned drug companies and hospitals want to see profits, and none have any incentives to cure and wean us from needing their services. There are no financial incentives to make us better, just the opposite.
Marketing Hope For Profit
The whole healthcare system preys on and benefits from marketing hope and the human survival instinct. Suppose there’s hope that some experimental procedure or drug cocktail will fix us. In that case, we’re all over it, regardless of the long odds and the likelihood of adverse side effects, especially if insurance will cover the bill. After all, the insurance companies never lose. They’ll raise their rates to cover whatever is needed to stay profitable.
Sick People Equals Profit
After losing so many friends and family members to mystery illnesses, I’ve been mulling over healthcare in the United States for many years; I’ve realized one of my biggest problems with our healthcare system is that it is a profit-driven business. And there’s little real motivation to cure anyone, just the opposite. When you think about it, as long as you’re at least a little sick, you’re income.
The Prescription Hamster Wheel
For many people, too many, the USA healthcare machine is set up to get you and me both on the hamster wheel of prescription drugs and keep you there. Why is that? Money! Have you watched any live broadcast television lately? Oh my gosh, the expensive prime-time drug commercials are everywhere.
We Know Way More About Athletes Than Our Doctors!
A lack of transparency may be the thing that irks me the most. I’m not talking about financial transparency and procedural costs as much as provider statistics. To use a sports analogy, a physician win/loss record would be excellent.
Show Me Some Meaningful Stats
If you went to school and had classmates, you know that achievers and screwups and everybody in between were all around you. Not everybody is valedictorian material, far from it. So, where did my doctor score in medical school? What were their strengths and weaknesses? Did the surgeon consistently get an A+ in their Surgery Class? And what about their stats during residency? What was the ratio of good vs incorrect diagnosis?
Why Don’t We Demand Details?
What are the key performance indicators (KPIs) or relevant stats from hospitals to nurses to doctors? We track and report every conceivable metric for our professional athletes. Why don’t we require this information from our healthcare providers?
Of the people who walk in for various procedures, how many walk out? That’s pretty basic. What percentage of 100 sick people entering each hospital get fixed and leave? I could go on and on with this notion of medical stats, drilling deeper and deeper. It’s like the movie Moneyball but adapted for healthcare. Transparency is helpful to me, the patient.
Bedside Manner Means Little, What Do The Career Stats Tell Us?
Wouldn’t you like to know more about a doctor’s education and career results than their bedside manner? I know I would. I’d like to see verifiable data about how good my doctor has been during their career. If they are rookie first-year doctors, show me your residency performance vs. others or the averages. Please show me the numbers! My desire for performance statistics applies to hospitals, too—stats about more than just financial, but of all types of result-oriented performance. For example, the average age of equipment and staff would be interesting. But more interesting is the survival statistics for various intensive care units and Operating Rooms.
We could create a top 25 list with trophies, interviews, and substantial cash prizes for the champion ICU and OR teams annually. Hall of Fame?
Or better yet, alter the incentives to award huge bonuses for maintaining an excellent record of correct and quick diagnosis! That is worth making a big deal about.
Verifiable Performance History Needed
Regarding compensation, hospitals, and healthcare providers deserve payment for jobs well done. I get that completely. My problem is that as a largely self-governing body with a total lack of transparency regarding performance metrics. The brochure needs more information about whose skills I’m choosing to fix my body when I break.
We Blindly Pay Without A Real Clue About Anything
As helpful as stats would be to choosing drugs, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, etc., I cannot get past my issue regarding the for-profit existence of all healthcare in the USA. I have witnessed very sick people, friends, and family spend years in the healthcare system, spending thousands, even millions of dollars, to try another new experimental drug regimen or procedure. Thousands of hours in waiting and recovery rooms and traveling to and from facilities that never seem to be running on schedule. The cutting, the radiation, the chemicals, and the tests ravaged their bodies. The providers are kind, helpful, and attentive as long as the bill gets paid. But, as soon as the last experiment fails, the patient is out on their ear in a heartbeat to clear the bed for the next hopeful “patient.” The whole process makes me sick as I watch TV commercials touting these “renowned” hospital systems. How many patients are under the care of well-marketed complete hacks that are great at concealing their lousy, below-average skills and abilities?
Few Other Professions Can Get Away Without Meaningful Performance Reporting, Like Medicine
Many people don’t like to be measured or have their performance tracked, but personally think it would be awesome to see serious doctor stats that would help us make much better decisions about our caregivers and their advice or diagnosis.
I’ve known far too many people who fell ill, and no doctor was able to figure out what was wrong with them! I find this astonishing in the 21st century with all our intellect, research, technology, and computing power! Many of the sick friends told me they trusted their doctors, but none of those friends are among the living anymore. We’re not talking about weather forecasters or auto mechanics; we’re talking about medical doctors in 2023. That’s BS. The American public accepts this inability to rapidly and accurately diagnose too conveniently. I believe publishing some relevant stats would help us find the doctors who could’ve fixed my friends if we only knew about their above-average talents and abilities.
Computers, Data, and AI to the Rescue
If there ever was a case for AI to solve problems for humans, it’s medicine and medical diagnosis. Computers and software with access to accurate anonymized data and stats could do what doctors increasingly fail to do, and that is to diagnose quickly and accurately. We should pour money into this use case for AI instead of silly things like writing High School Essays or Ad copy for TV commercials or searching Bing or Google. I can almost see it now, “Alexa, what’s wrong with me?.” Or ask Siri to assess your vitals when you start feeling warm and have the trots.
Our Healthcare and Medicine Can Do Better, Much Better
Short of public social medicine, like what some countries have, I need a better answer for separating profit from medicine. But don’t chastise me for not wanting to jump on the hamster wheel unquestioningly. The public should begin to ask for more data. We deserve to know more about our healthcare providers. We should know details about the influence and relationships between drug companies and our caregivers. I cannot and will not get past the issue of business and profit corrupting the US healthcare system, but seeing some reliable and meaningful numbers might help ease my pain in knowing my Doc has an excellent stat sheet.
That’s my $0.02,