Saturday, September 17, 2011

A micro-picture of what is wrong with out health system

So, my wife has been sick, and she was kinda worried it could be strep, so we took her took a local medstop yesterday. She went in, got tested. It wasn't strep, instead this is what was written on her Patient Education Form:
Your throat pain is due to an infection called 'Viral Pharyngitis', commonly known as 'Sore Throat'. This is a contagious illness. It is spread through the air by coughing, kissing, or by touching others after touching your mouth or nose. Symptoms include throat pain worse with swallowing, aching all over, headache and fever. This illness does not require treatment with an antibiotic. [Emphasis added]
So, the doctor gave her two prescriptions, one of which was for Amoxicillin (an antibiotic). Why? No real reason. It won't treat the sickness. It merely adds to the costs of health care in this country. If taken, it stands the chance of creating antibiotic resistant bacteria. It will certainly decrease the taker's antibiotic effectiveness for the next six months. And, there is also the slim chance of a major health consequences.

Why do I write about this? Because when we talk about the health care system, we usually are talking about the major actors: insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and the various governmental agencies and laws. And all of those are tied in together, but we also need to start changing the way that cost-benefit analysis of individual doctors. On some level we can say this requires patient knowledge (knowledge to know when to ignore a prescription), but that is obviously unrealistic. Anyway, this is another example that we have two problems with our health care system. One is that we are usually underinsured, and underprotected. The other is that people who are insured are frequently given too much care. If you want to know more, read Jonathan Cohn's Sick as a good place to start.