Thursday, July 23, 2009

Getting Good Value in Health Care - Dr. Pauline Chen

Dr. Pauline Chen, columnist for the NY Times, penned a great article titled "Getting Good Value in Health Care". It's a great piece because it is so politically incorrect. As a primary care doctor I know the value of prevention. In the healthcare reform debate, people are touting "savings" in prevention when as Dr. Chen points out accurately that this is NOT the case.

There is no savings with preventive care. Healthier people live longer and consequently have opportunities later to develop other illnesses which increase costs.

The real point is that preventive interventions can improve quality of life and prevent premature death. Wouldn't we all want to do the right things to be around with family and friends to our fullest potential? Doing the right things won't save money, probably cost neutral, but the value, being around people we love is priceless.

Where I work, the simple preventive checklist Dr. Chen discusses is easy as each patient upon registration gets a list of age appropriate interventions - mammogram, vaccinations, cholesterol, colon cancer screening, and whether they are up-to-date so both patient and doctor know if more needs to be done.

The sad part is that I know that is the exception to the rule in this country. As a result too many Americans (80,000 annually) die prematurely because they don't get the right preventive care or treatment that we know works.

That is the real tragedy because not all patients have access to this important information, doctors are often too busy and overwhelmed, and communities and third party systems don't have the capabilities to support reminders and interventions.

This disparity is what compelled me to write my book because in the end knowing these simple rules should NOT be a mystery to anyone.

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