Feature | August 14, 2008 | Rick Dana Barlow

Blurring the Lines

Call it common sense or label it logic, but when it comes to healthcare, for some reason the industry’s patients, players, policymakers and pundits seem to lack it. Here are nine examples.

With the clinical profession embracing and moving to minimally invasive surgery (and eventually noninvasive procedures) why is it that radiation therapy still plays second fiddle to chemical/pharmaceutical (chemotherapy) and surgical approaches to combating cancer, particularly if it’s caught early enough?
If diagnostic imaging is the necessary predecessor to any chemical, radiation or surgical treatment and can pinpoint problems far enough in advance to subvert the need for costly, long-term treatment, why are politicians finagling over how to reduce reimbursement levels?

If electronic health and/or medical records are so important to cutting costs, reducing administrative waste and promoting operational efficiency in healthcare, why are doctors and hospitals being forced to foot the investment bills with nary a contribution from the payers that will benefit the most from this?

If the utopian vision of an efficiently run healthcare system and a healthy populace is to keep patients out of the hospital, why are the nation’s 5,000-plus hospitals so upset with the tens of thousands of small physician-owned ambulatory surgery centers and roughly 100 physician-owned hospitals that arguably deliver equivalent – if not higher – quality and more cost-effective healthcare? It can’t just be all about the money, can it?

Why is it that true healthcare reform doesn’t involve moving all federal employees, from the nation’s chief executive and his family down to the lowest-ranking public servant in the same insurance pools as everyone else, eliminating the cushy and costly coverage taxpayer-funded officials and their support staff enjoy?

Why is it that the seductive politicians and their seduced swear by mandated universal coverage but at the same time complain about the skyrocketing costs of healthcare – hospital charges in particular – that exist to compensate for services that must be provided to those who can’t (or won’t) pay (essentially for free at the taxpayers’ expense)?

How is it that we’ve created and nurtured a healthcare system that enables bad habits because hospitals, doctors and nurses will fix any problems and insurers or taxpayers will pay for it, but if the problem isn’t solved within an acceptable timeframe we’ll just sue the hospitals, doctors, nurses and insurance companies, the fiscal result of which trickles down to the taxpayers anyway?

Why is it that we have more medical doctors in Congress today but are still no closer to “fixing” healthcare? Isn’t that akin to a church with a dozen ordained ministers in the congregation where no one wants to preach?

Perhaps this is why the industry’s perennially in the red. Fade to black.

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