What Will Finally Fix Health Care
For centuries good health care has not really been about seeing a doctor or a surgeon. It's been about getting the right information to the right person at the right time. Okay, sure, often that person WAS a doctor or a surgeon, but often it was not. And the smarter we got as societies, the longer and better we started living. The pattern still holds.
These days we have ready, free (or as close as makes no difference) access to all the information our doctors do. (Except patient records -- HIPAA says that would be a violation of privacy, and I agree...)
What we, the patient-class, the uninitiated do NOT have free and ready access to is trusted gatekeepers who will filter the good information from the not-so-good. You know, doctors who will tell us that although our Google search on these symptoms was flawed because we left out "night sweats," or something like that.
Assuming we haven't all succumbed to Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Nanocancer, or the Andromeda Strain in the next 200 years, I firmly believe that our descendants are going to look back at our primitive, 21st-century discussions and wonder why we wasted so much time and money when what finally fixed Health Care was information we'd been sitting on for decades.
We will probably always need a select few, skilled practitioners of the dark and arcane arts of medicine, but most of what we need to be healthy is a correct diagnosis, and the alignment of simple treatments with sets of symptoms.
That's just information.
I'm not belittling what my doctor does. He's worked hard to throw terabytes of information into his head so that his miraculously synaptic brain can quickly process my complaint and prescribe the treatments I need (and proscribe the things that are hurting me.)
But it's still just information.
Okay, not when he whips out his scalpel and removes a mass from my forearm (had that done in January. Ouch.) -- that's skill acquired through years of practice. And we'll always need somebody with that skill set to complete certain treatments. We'll also always need other things that cost money, like new medications, fancy devices for irradiating tissue, and diagnostic tools. But those things don't need to cost what they currently do. Not once we fix the flow of information.
I'm not proposing anything radical here. I'm not really proposing anything. I'm arm-chair quarterbacking, only instead of yelling at the television about the choice of plays, I'm yelling about how the game should really be taken into orbit and played in three dimensions by guys in armored EVA suits.