Saturday, November 24, 2012

Financing a Quality of Life

"Imagine a supermarket where you go in with your cart and pull items off the shelf with no prices on them. You take it up to the counter. It's scanned. The clerk swipes your card and says, "In 30 days you'll get your credit-card bill, and you'll know how much your groceries cost." Would you shop there? But that's how the health-care system works. We need to create transparency in the system so people can understand how much health care costs."  - a quote from Mark Bertolini, a CEO of Aetna (Remaking Health Care: Change the Way Providers are Paid)

Over turkey and mash potatoes, this was a choice dinner topic! And much to my surprise, I stumbled upon this article the next day. My aunt who works at a local hospital argued, "we just can't know how much it will cost!" in regards to health care costs.

Why not? The patient is not the primary concern of the price tag debate. It is between the hospital and the insurance company before the patient is even involved. First, insurance companies and hospitals enter an agreement for surgery costs at a flat rate. Then, the price relative to the patient is taken into consideration based on insurance. 

In addition from the patient's perspective, price shopping is not made easy. Especially for a patient who is about to undergo surgery. Under these circumstances, are we really in the position to haggle a surgeon or anesthesiologist? It also calls into question the quality of the operation. Does a lower price mean lower quality? 

But, these issues are being addressed. The nation's finances are being reworked and prioritized, beginning with health care. In some states, commercial insurers and non-profit organizations have created internet sites to advertise and compare prices between local hospitals and clinics so that patients can shop knowledgeably. Eventually hospitals and insurance agencies will be forced to set prices, for their own benefit. It is an industry that has managed to get by with its customers in the dark. But this industry is being challenged. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Medicine in the News: Alzheimer's Detection

Every week I will post a headline from the news in health care...

An article from the New York Times For Alzheimer's: Detection Advances Outpace Treatment Options, as the title suggests, advancements are being made in technology for detecting Alzheimer's,  but the discovery for treatment options remain stagnant. Those who test positive for the test face new challenges, in addition to those caused by Alzheimer's. These issues include insurance problems, hospital costs, and exhaustion from emotional stresses.

While the test benefits those who are misdiagnosed and test negative by allowing them to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment, it poses challenges for those who test positive and have no known treatment. In these cases, is it best to know even if it brings more problems to the surface? But in the case of having a family, isn't it better to know that you are at risk for this disease?

Should this test be used in all cases? When do the risks begin to outweigh the benefits?

A carrot for your thoughts

Hello, this is Whatsupdoc, a student at the University of Michigan who is studying medicine. For the past year, I have been working in a neurology lab primarily studying a type of Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, a progressive neurologic disorder that causes lower motor neuron deterioration affecting the lower extremities. It leads to stiffness and weakness in the legs and as the disorder progresses, disables the legs.

The focus of my blog will be broad. In summary, I want to talk about small tid-bits of every aspect of medicine! Social aspects, economical, ethical, cultural...I not only want to share what interests me, but I want YOUR critique. YOUR opinions. YOUR commentary. And anything you would like to share!

For those who would like to know more about Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia and/or for those feeling generous who would like to support the Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia Foundation, here are two links to the website for information and donations.