Patients are taught what to want by doctors who prescribe new tests. And doctors are taught to do that by lawyers eager to sue if they don’t. Imagine going home and saying, “the doctor wanted to give me another test, but I said no…”
So this means, from a health care perspective, we should not support “cap and trade?” And that we should support ethanol subsidies? As if health care didn’t have anything else to think about at the moment, Judith D. Schwartz writes that the industry’s dependence on oil should be a top concern:
One might not imagine oil and medicine would mix, but U.S. health care relies on cheap crude in multiple ways: from petroleum-derived pharmaceuticals (including such commonly prescribed drugs as aspirin, vitamin capsules, cortisone and many antibiotics, antihistamines, medicated skin creams and psychiatric medications), catheters and syringes to running and transporting high-tech machines and time-is-of-the-essence ambulance runs. This makes for great aseptic single-use equipment and complex, even heroic, surgeries, but it also leaves our medical system highly vulnerable to any disruptions to the oil supply — which experts say will undoubtedly happen, though no one knows exactly when.
What makes the obesity problem so difficult is that it pretty much came out of nowhere and we, in essence, have no reliable solutions to pursue.
The singular feature of American obesity is its steep, out-of-nowhere rise. For most of the 20th century, U.S. obesity rates were stable, with a slight upward trend through the late 1970s. Suddenly, they spiked across all demographic groups and have continued to rise unabated. In sheer body mass, the entire population is heavier than it used to be, and the heaviest are much heavier. Just between 1998 and 2006, obesity rates increased by 37%, according to the CDC.
The costs are nearly as startling. In a study published this week in the journal Health Affairs, CDC researchers estimate that obesity now accounts for 9.1% of all medical spending—$147 billion in 2008. The Milken Institute estimates that chronic disease costs more than $1.2 trillion every year. On top of the medical resources devoted to preventable illness, a fatter and sicker work force is a drag on economic growth. In effect, we’re eating money. (link to Health Affairs study)
Last week the CDC held its wittily named “Weight of the Nation” conference to discuss obesity in order to game plan its approach to fighting the problem. What’s been tried/suggested (a few): discourage auto transit, eliminate agriculture subsidies, ban food advertising, interventions in the school, family, and community. Read about them here in a piece by Megan McCardle; her summary of obesity-fighting efforts indicates most interventions up to (right) now have been rather unsuccessful:
But the political opposition these actions would face is absolute(ly) enormous. Americans were not blindly seduced into an auto-based lifestyle by the paver’s union; they voted for lots of roads because they like their cars. Every president since Reagan has wanted to eliminate farm subsidies, and every president since Reagan has thoroughly, utterly, entirely failed. Similarly, the food and entertainment industries are not going to stand idly by while you do away with 10% of advertising revenue. “Fix the schools” and “fix crime” are two agendas that society is currently aggressively pursuing, with limited success. And I’m skeptical that you’re going to find something north of $30 billion a year for the kind of early-child interventions that really seem to make a difference.
Addressing the obesity problem at the point of (health) care is too late. It’s (mostly) a problem of individual choice and it seems the solution likely falls in the same hemisphere. But that’s rhetoric, now onto the implementation…
RELATED UPDATE: Guess we’ve been “shaving the bear…”
A WSJ article outlines the conundrum with pay for performance:
Can hospitals persuade discharged patients such as Betty Beauchaine to pass up a Fourth of July hot dog?
It’s more about the patients than the providers. And if health status isn’t incentive enough, maybe greenbacks are. From Marketplace:
We published a paper that shows that if you pay individuals $7 a pound, you can get the type of weight loss that’s traditionally seen through off-the-shelf weight- loss programs.
Have you seen Food, Inc? Not that we need another health care problem, but this one, at least on the surface, seems to be a potentially mighty one. (Disclosure: my bias is high as my sister is a food scientist.) This exchange about genetically modified, mass produced food and increased caloric consumption leading to a higher incidence of diabetes is interesting:
Robert Kenner: When I was a kid we spent something like 18% of our income on food, today we spend about 9%.
Jon Stewart: So we’ve won!
RK: That’s great. The fact is we have really inexpensive food which is great news. The problem is now, when I was kid health care costs were about 5% of our paycheck and today they’re about 18%. … We’re not going to be able to fix the health care system until we fix the food system.
Remember pay for performance? Incenting physicians based upon quality measures or patient outcomes or productivity? A real good idea on the surface; also an idea proving difficult to implement. Anyway, new research says pay for performance compensation packages in the general business world may not achieve its intended benefits.
Dr. Bernd Irlenbusch from the London School of Economics:
We find that financial incentives may indeed reduce intrinsic motivation and diminish ethical or other reasons for complying with workplace social norms such as fairness. As a consequence, the provision of incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.
Something to pay attention to in this era of reformation.
Wowza. Enough said:
A Dean Health System manager removed a nurse from a minor surgical procedure last week — in violation of medical protocol — in order to lay her off, a spokesman for the company confirmed Monday.
The abrupt removal, which spokesman Paul Pitas said posed no danger to the patient, came after the Madison-based health care provider announced Wednesday that it planned to “immediately” lay off 90 employees.
Pitas, director of corporate communications, labeled the action “clearly … an error in judgment on the part of the manager conducting the layoff.” He declined to name the manager but described her as “an otherwise good employe with more than 30 years of nursing experience who made a regrettable decision.”