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Dr. Feld. Why Only Pick On The Healthcare Insurance Industry?: Part 2

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

This post continues my reply to Matt Modleski’s comment. If one views the dysfunction in the healthcare system as a gradually evolving process is it clear that all the stakeholders have contributed to its dysfunction. As each stakeholder adjusted to the changes, the healthcare system became more dysfunctional.

“ The number of scans, tests and procedures that are done each year unnecessarily because the facilities that are built (many Physician owned) are put to use is also a big part of the problem. This has been documented in study after study (some of them conducted by physicians).”

In the studies Matt refers to patients going to these testing clinics could be getting better care than the non physician owned clinics? Remember quality of care has not been clearly defined by policy makers or the healthcare insurance industry.

Physicians in academic medicine have not precisely defined quality medical care. However, everyone talks about it. I do not believe you can assume physicians are doing the test simply to make a profit.

I do think there are a lot of unnecessary procedures done in many hospital outpatient facilities and physician owned facilities. Many of the procedures are done because physicians are forced to practice defensive medicine. There are many law suits in the pipeline presently because of missed diagnosis.

Patients with vague symptoms at the time of physician visits need to be tested to detect possible disease. Almost everyone experiencing automobile accidents with the slightest head trauma automatically undergoes a CAT scan to rule out a cerebral bleed. President Reagan did not get an automatic MRI or CAT scan when he had his subdural hematoma.

Diagnoses that would not otherwise be made are made early through testing using new technology. Clinical judgment has lost its place in the defense of malpractice suits. The costs of using new technologies has an enormous impact on the cost of medical care. Yet no one has precisely defined quality medical care . Nonetheless, physicians have been accused of over testing when they control their intellectual property.

A significant number of malpractice suits would disappear if the government changed some liability rules. The rule change would make malpractice claims less attractive to malpractice attorneys. Malpractice attorneys receive one third to one half of any settlement. A change in the contingency rule would decrease lawyers’ incentives and frivolous malpractice claims. The government has to put limits on damages for certain claims and change the adjudication process. Plaintiffs attorneys’ have resisted these changes.

The state of Texas has made these changes. there has been a marked reduction in malpractice claims as well as malpractice premiums.

The reasons for the overuse of the healthcare system have not been publicized in the media or by organized medicine. Overuse of the healthcare system makes a sensational story for the media and it is easy to blame physicians. I am not interested in defending physicians. However, one should give physicians the benefit of the doubt since you trust them to deliver the best medical care possible. If you do not like what they suggest pick another physician. I would not rely on a healthcare insurance company’s employee looking at the computer screen to make a medical treatment judgment about my health.

There are also lots of unnecessary tests done because of increasing patient demand. Patients learn from the media and online what needs to be tested. Cholesterol testing and bone density testing are increasing. When the compliance rate is analyzed only 30%- 50% of people who should be tested are tested. When they were tested only 30-50% treated stayed on the medication after 1 year. Think about it. If everyone was tested and treated appropriately the cost of testing and treatment would increase while the cost of the complications of these chronic diseases would fall precipitously. The greatest cost is the cost of treating the complications of chronic diseases.

Matt complains about physicians owning the facilities to test patients. Why should physicians give their intellectual property away to hospitals when they can do the test more conveniently and cheaper in their office?

Physicians detect, treat and teach patients how to become professor of their chronic disease so patients can be knowledgeable in managing their disease. This is the definition of cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is not reward by the government or the healthcare insurance industry. Isn’t this a perverse circumstance since 90% of the healthcare dollar is spent of the complications of chronic disease?

“The system is broken and commoditized reimbursement, regardless of the quality of care, is a key component, but so is the overtreatment of patients by financially driven providers. Every now and then you hint as much, but you would be helping everyone by giving it equal airtime with your perspective on the woes created by the insurance companies.

Physicians’ intellectual property has been discredited and devalued. Physicians are intelligent people who have accepted the fact that their credibility is challenged. They are trying to figure out way to make a living taking caring for patients in the best possible way. They also want to figure out how to protect their intellectual property. They try not to react to a healthcare system that has challenged their skills and integrity.

Patients are at fault by believing medical care is a right. Obesity is an epidemic and generates chronic disease and the complication of chronic disease. The adherence to hypertension therapy is less than 50% leading to strokes and myocardial infarction. The adherence to diabetes treatment is less than 40%. Shouldn’t society be putting energy and money into solving this problem?

The question is where did the dysfunctional behavior start? It started when the healthcare insurance industry started gaming and controlling the healthcare system for profit after the government instituted price controls.

My solution is my ideal medical savings account putting the patient in control under the appropriate set of rules. The consumer is the only stakeholder that can force the government to make the correct rules!

"Keep doing what you do, I read your stuff every day".



Matt, thanks for your comment.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.

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