I love the term "Consumer-Driven Healthcare." It's so, well, corporate.
God forbid we call it "Patient-Driven Healthcare." At least that might make some sense.
But "Consumer-Driven Healthcare" seems to be what all the buzz is about. Learn which hospital is the highest "rated." Learn which hospitals do which procedures. Learn which hospitals give aspirin to 100% of their acute heart attack victims, or wash their hands, or have saunas and spas, or reiki, or DaVinci robots. With that Great Website out there, "consumers" are gonna have it all! Can't you hear it? "Our website will have a HUGE impact on where you'll get your care. Our website will have all of the information right at your fingertips as your clutching your chest and can't breathe! Our website will even tell you where the most non-foreign trained medical doctors are on staff and how many are board certified, and where those doctors trained - for we tap into a repository of 8,000 databases and cull the data that looks best to us! We'll even let you see how many gold stars they've
And the Average Joe (or Janet) Everyman LOVES this empowerment. I mean, what's not to like? Isn't it great? "I'm gonna know everything before I get to the hospital - and what I don't know, hell, I'm just going to look it up on the Great Website!"
What a crock of excrement.
What Joe and Janet don't realize is this: they're patients, not consumers.
If they were real consumers, they'd know what it costs to have a gallbladder removed, or what their surgeon will charge and how much he's willing to accept in payment for his services. They'd be able to talk directly to their doctor about pre-arranged fees for procedures, especially if they had no insurance. They'd have a way to negotiate with a hospital and show them the costs at other hospitals in the area. They'd also know what a hospital room, or ICU room, or operating-room-by-the-minute or Tylenol costs. And if they didn't want to pay the cost of a Tylenol, they'd be able to bring their own. But you see, that would not allow the hospital to pay for the electricity, and janitors, and cooking staff, and security force, and hoards of quality assurance coordinators and data gatherers.
Here's the newsflash: most Big Corporations are the "consumers." They buy insurance policies for many, many, many individuals. They're whom the financial and insurance industry lends an ear, not the individual patients themselves (although this might be changing slowly as more people aren't insured). And this Big Business "Consumer-Driven Healthcare" bus is being driven into your living room and computer console without a shred of evidence that it impacts (on a large scale) where patients receive their care. Here's the deal: most people go to the hospital facility closest to them. Period. They want to be near friends and family.
So all this marketing hype about "consumer-driven healthcare" means nothing - especially if you're going to try to figure out what it's going to cost you (versus your insurer) for a particular medical service. Like some asinine $5.2 million dollar website is going to make that happen?
Now I'm not saying that all the information on the web is necessarily bad. On the contrary. I firmly believe that the information on the web is helpful - even lifesaving - on occasion (can you say "Dr. Google?") Heck, just this week a neighbor of mine gradually had increasing right lower quadrant discomfort and Googled their symptoms and it suggested "appendicitis" - the correct diagnosis - prompting this individual to seek ER evaluation early. Forums and web-based support groups also can be remarkably helpful on a whole other level: they're the power of community.
But I only need to look at myself and the difficulty I have in determining who is a good doctor or a fantastic doctor, and realize even I - one working every day in the healthcare world - have a tough time telling who's okay, good, or great. That's because I don't work with dermatologists every day, or neurologists, or pathologists, or oncologists, or pulmonologists or urologists. Now I can tell you who'd I recommend as a reasonable internist (since I work with them more often), but most of them might not go to the hospital anymore, so how good is that recommendation, eh? You'll probably get whatever hospitalist is covering the ward that week when you come in sick. Good luck finding that person's credentials or being able to pick who's covering. And nursing coverage? You know, that all-important nurse-to-patient ratio that determines the real quality of care? Since your likely to know which ward you'll be admitted to, that information is irrelevant too.
Yep - the "consumer-driven healthcare" movement: leaving little to impact your real medical care (except a really cool website).
All for a cool $5.2 million bucks and counting.
h/t: Wall Street Journal Health Blog