So how is the healthcare profession doing with their “oath?” Taken as a whole, are they practicing “responsible healthcare?” Let’s see what some of the statistics have to say. There are always two sides to every statistical coin. Perception isn’t always reality, so stay with me through the stats.
1. The U.S. spends 16% of its’ Gross Domestic Product on Healthcare, which is more than any other country in the world.
2. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the U.S. health system 37th among industrialized
3. According to WHO, U.S. life expectancy ranks 24th in the world.
4. Life extension magazine says that there are 7.5 million unnecessary surgical procedures and 8.9 million unnecessary hospitalizations per year.
5. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), preventable medical error is the 8th leading cause of death in the nation. Some studies show that number to be much higher.
Convinced that the healthcare sky is falling? Let’s take a closer look.
In an article entitled Americans down on the U.S. health-care system by Kirsten Gerencher of MarketWatch, the author concurs that “Americans are fed up with the headaches in their system,” “but” adds Uwe Reinhardt, professor of economic and public affairs at Princeton University, “that's generally not due to the quality of care they receive.”
In the article, Dr. Reinhardt went on to say that “Doctors and nurses routinely hear demoralizing news that U.S. medicine is inferior when the real problem is the way we finance health care and the hassle of claiming insurance," he said.
I think I’ll take Dr. Reinhardt’s example one step further. Let’s take a quick look at those statistics again.
- Statistic #1 is about spending. Americans spend a lot on healthcare – no surprise there.
- Statistic #2 ranks the U.S. healthcare system in general.
- Statistic #3 refers to life expectancy.
- Statistic #4 references “unnecessary surgeries.”
- Statistic #5 references “unnecessary hospitalizations.”
- Statistic #6 discusses “preventable medical error.”
So who’s ultimately responsible for healthcare? As a patient or consumer of healthcare, how many of the statistics above do you think you have an influence over?
Can you shop around for the best care, at an affordable price (Statistic #1)? As per Dr. Reinhardt’s comment, the healthcare “system” doesn’t necessarily refer to the quality of care received (#2).
Do you think that you can have an impact on your own life expectancy (#3)? How about “unnecessary” (recognize that word for what it is) surgeries or hospitalizations (#4 & #5)? And finally, there’s a reason this statistic refers to medical error as “preventable” (#6)!
Yes, malpractice is at an all-time high, but according to an article in the New York Times, “Only a small percentage of doctors account for most of the money paid out in malpractice cases.” The Times cites a 12-year study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) saying that 54% of all malpractice payouts were paid by 5% of the physicians. Do you know what that means? Well, the most obvious is that 5% of the physicians in this country are “repeat offenders.” They’re “bad eggs” in the system. But perhaps not so obvious is the fact that statistically speaking, the majority of the physicians in the U.S. are giving excellent quality care!
As someone who spent the last 15 years in the healthcare field, I know all too well about the “bad docs” out there (the 5%). And yet, my family and friends receive quality healthcare on a consistent basis! Why? Because there are plenty of good doctors, nurses, physicians assistants etc. out there who take their responsibilities seriously. My question to you is, when was the last time you felt a personal responsibility for your own care?
I acknowledge and respect the oath taken by physicians – I don’t discount it in the least. But we should all have our own oath or law stating that we’re going to watch out for ourselves. That we’re going to take an active role in our own care. As we take our personal “healthcare responsibility” seriously, we can turn the tables on the statistics, the perception and even the reality of healthcare in America. Imagine one person at a time, taking personal responsibility for their own healthcare. Can you see how reform happens?
I’m feeling pretty good about my personal “life expectancy” statistic right about now. How about you?