Thursday, August 27, 2009

Insurance, Trust + the Free Market System

According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, “The insurance industry suffers from a general lack of trust — the ‘animosity issue.’” In fact, only 41% of U.S. customers agree with the statement that “insurance companies can be completely trusted.”

So, I was very interested when I saw a piece on Boing Boing on the “anti-universal-health-care” movement which ultimately led me to Bill Moyers’ interview of Wendell Potter on PBS. A former VP of public relations at Cigna, Potter was talking about the “dirty tricks” used by the insurance industry to fight universal healthcare.

“The [insurance] industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you're heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism,” Potter said. “We shouldn't fear government involvement in our health care system. There is an appropriate role for government.”

I say, let the free market compete — and if government comes in, they will compete, too.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Technology Is Changing Patients’ Healthcare Experience

Patients who use the internet to find health-related information say it’s having a significant impact on the way they care for themselves and others, according to Navigating the New Health Care Delivery System, a study conducted by the Pew Internet Project in partnership with the California HealthCare Foundation.

While the final report is not out yet, Pew’s Susannah Fox has previewed some of the findings, including the following interesting tidbits:

• 8 out of 10 internet users — or 61% of U.S. adults — have looked online for health information.

• While the vast majority of people with a health question want to consult a health professional, the second most popular choice is friends and family. Third choice: the internet and books.

• 41% of “e-patients” have read someone else's commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website or blog.

• One-quarter of e-patients have consulted rankings or reviews of doctors or other providers online.

• One-quarter of e-patients have consulted rankings or reviews online of hospitals or other medical facilities.

• While online health research does not replace traditional sources of health information, the Pew Internet Project finds that e-patients are using the internet to reinforce and supplement traditional sources of care.

It’s not surprising then, that “the majority of consumers want to share decision-making with their doctor. In fact, only 20% are content to let their doctor control those decisions, according to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in its 2008 Survey of Health Care Consumers.

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Monday, January 5, 2009

The Sorry State of the Nation’s Health Care

Did you know that 67 percent of Americans are overweight? That 40 percent get no exercise? Or that a whopping 96 percent of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables? Even more frightening is the fact that the current generation of American children may be the first ever to have a shorter life span than their parents.

Americans paid out a record 16 percent of our GDP (or $2 trillion) for health care in 2008 … making us the world’s biggest healthcare spender, on a per capita basis, according to a recent article by TIME reporter Alice Park. Notwithstanding the huge sums we throw at the problem of health care, the U.S. is ranked 19th — last! — among industrialized nations when it comes to preventable deaths.

The biggest problem with the U.S. health-care system, Park reports, is that it has been designed to respond to illness rather than prevent it: fully half of U.S. adults in 2005 did not receive recommended preventive care. “When we do get our cardiac health checked, too often it's because we've been rushed to the emergency room suffering from chest pains. When we do get a cancer evaluation, too often it's a diagnosis of advanced disease that has spread beyond the initial tumor site,” she writes.

If our ailing healthcare system is to recover, more attention needs to be paid to education, prevention and early treatment. It’s a strategy which has been shown to deliver promising results — for example, half of adults ages 50+ and older received a colon scan, meeting the colon cancer screening targets established by the Department of Health and Human Services in its Healthy People 2010 report.

President-elect Obama is said to rank health-care reform third on his list of top priorities, just behind addressing the financial crisis and passing an energy bill. From his mouth to our legislators’ ears.

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