Changing The Health Care Industry From The Inside Out

Legal Articles | January 29, 2013

A prominent surgeon and professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has written a book that he is hoping will help change the broken health care system. Despite the public criticism of many of the practices involved in medicine today, he says many doctors have thanked him for helping to explain the realities that lead to a medical error rate that strikes one of every four people who are hospitalized. Not all doctors are pleased, however, and some likely believe he has violated an unwritten rule to keep the problems of the medical industry in house. The author, Marty Makary, believes that the silence is part of the problem.

In his book, Dr. Makary talks about doctors who are known to be substandard practitioners, but who are allowed to keep practicing because colleagues remain silent about the problem. He also discusses doctors whose medical knowledge is far behind current best practices. Another problem highlighted is the relationship between doctors, hospitals and the drug and medical device companies that pay them to push products and treatments that may not be in the best interests of the patient.

An Absence Of Trust In The Doctor-Patient Relationship

The last issue may be a larger problem than many realize. Experts have reported that more than 20 percent of the medical care provided in hospitals is unnecessary. While some blame defensive medicine, the theory that doctors practice to avoid getting sued, it is just as likely that doctors are ordering medications and the use of medical devices because they receive “sales commissions” for doing so. Many patients might be interested to know if their doctor has a financial incentive to recommend a certain course of treatment.

Many people assume that doctors have only their patients’ interests at heart. A survey conducted by the American College of Surgeons found that, on average, patients spend less than an hour researching a surgery or surgeon before undergoing the procedure. The average consumer spends more than eight hours researching a new car before buying it. Someone might conclude that patients care more about the vehicle they drive to the hospital than whether their surgery turns out well.

How To Prevent Medical Errors

Dr. Makary offers several tips on how patients can improve the quality of the care they receive. He suggests that patients treat medical services like they would any other situation in which they are consuming a good or service. Ask hospital employees for recommendations about a doctor. Research your condition online and make sure to understand and evaluate your options before agreeing to a treatment program.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a fact sheet to help patients prevent medical errors. Many of the tips focus on preventing medication errors, including the No. 1 tip, which is to “make sure that all of your doctors know about every medicine you are taking.” Tips to reduce surgery errors include advice similar to Dr. Makary’s. Whenever possible, you should pick a hospital where your procedure has been performed many times with successful results.

Health problems can be frustrating. There is a temptation for doctors and patients alike to do something, even when doing nothing is the right course of action. When it comes to health care, more treatment is not better treatment. Medical care is expensive and almost every treatment comes with health risks. It is up to patients to make sure that they are not pushing their doctors to offer unnecessary care and it is up to doctors not to push treatments that are not medically indicated. When patients and doctors work in concert, health care is at its best.

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