Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Healthcare Failings Due to Not Doing the Basics

For anyone interested in understanding what drives a lot of the costs in the healthcare system, the New York Times health series about the six killers in America, heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema), diabetes, and Alzheimer's is an excellent place to start.

Some themes begin to emerge. For heart disease, the way to prevent future heart attacks is to ensure that patients understand how to take their medications and that it is often for life. For successful cancer treatment, the goal is early detection and undergoing the simple, but for some, unpleasant tests to screen for breast, colon, and prostate cancer. For stroke, it is to ensure that missed opportunities aren't missed.

Ulimately, much of the differences between a fair outcome and great outcome is focusing on the little things - taking medications regularly and as directed, getting the preventive screening tests done, and making sure that the little things are always taken care of.

Much like any coach knows before a team can be successful, each of the players must know the fundamentals. In hockey that would be skating, stickhandling, passing, and checking. It doesn't matter how expensive your skates are or what high tech materials your stick is made out of. Unless you and your team know the basics, you will fail. Unfortuantely, the healthcare system as a whole hasn't yet mastered the fundamentals.

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