Leaving the gym on an unseasonably warm night, I struck up a conversation in the parking lot with a vascular surgeon acquaintance. He recounted a technically demanding procedure that he had done the day before with a reported 10 percent risk of stroke and a 3 percent mortality risk.
Health and Human Services (HHS) just released data on 2010 health expenditures, reporting that we, as a nation, have now reached the $2.6 trillion mark, consuming 17.9% of our GDP. Reaching that new mark required 3.9% annual growth vs. 3.8% in 2009. On the surface, the rate of growth seems less alarming than the insurance premium trends of 7%, 8%, and more that have been common year after year over the past decade. Yet the reality is that the changes are really like comparing apples and oranges, as the aggregate figures provided by HHS include a number of factors that mitigate the apparent modest rate of increase. Often, to really see where we are, we need to see where we were. In 1978, as I started my graduate studies in health care economics and finance, health care expenditures were approximately $250 billion in the U.S. I still remember my mother, a hospital nursing administrator, showing me the financial records of a hospital that could fit on one large table in approximately five large filing containers. There was already growth and complexity in health care compared even to the prior decade, but compared to today, it was a simpler, less expensive world, to be sure. So, now today, 34 years later, we have a health care economy that is 10 times that size.
Editor's note: The article that the author refers to appears below this one.
There have been unsavory rumors flying around the internet that disease management as practiced today may not be all that effective. I’m not going to reveal who started these rumors but her name rhymes with Archelle Georgiou. This person says disease management is “dead.” Since there are still many disease management departments operating around the country apparently oblivious to their demise (and disease management departments are people too, you know), I suspect this commentator was using the word "dead" figuratively, as in: “The second he forgot the third cabinet department, Rick Perry was dead." (Another example of presumably figurative speech in the death category would be: "After he denounced gays while wearing the Brokeback Mountain jacket, you could stick a fork in him.")
In 1995, Dr. Michael Rich published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that fueled the start of an industry. In a randomized, controlled trial, he showed that an investing in proactive disease management (DM) activities could decrease the cost and improve the quality of life for patients with congestive heart failure.
The premise of disease management seemed intuitive:
Having just finished reading Walter Isaacson’s brilliant rendition of Steve Jobs’s life and career, I’ve considered whether there are health care marketplace lessons to be garnered from his central casting in the extraordinary tech wars for primacy over the past 25 years. I’d commend this biography to anyone who loves great writing and insightful analysis of the human condition, along with the foibles of growing a business.
If you thought Level 3 Medical Home, you were correct. If you thought retainer (concierge) practice, you would also be correct. To me, it seems eminently rational for people who have sufficient discretionary income to choose to use it to obtain more rapid access to a personal physician of her/ his choosing through a retainer (concierge) practice.
The drumbeat of EBM — Evidence Based Medicine — seems less vigorous in the wake of enthusiasm for new models of care — Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations — and reimbursement based on performance, outcomes, or episodes of care.
In my Saturday morning Torah study, we focused on Jacob’s “settling in” with his family. After years of struggle, Jacob becomes complacent, comfortable. We discussed whether Jacob’s complacency — his relative inaction — contributed to the animosity that led Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery and to report to their father that his then youngest son had been killed.
Mark Herzlich, Boston College All American linebacker and now New York Giants rookie, believes that positive thinking played an important part in his successful battle "to beat bone cancer" and return to football. World-renowned cyclist and cancer advocate Lance Armstrong credits not only topnotch medical care but also positive thinking in his overcoming testicular cancer. Armstrong stated on CBS Sunday Morning, "You can't deny the fact that a person with a positive and optimistic attitude does a lot better." Like the vast majority of individuals polled on whether or not the positive thinking can influence cancer outcomes, I believed/wanted to believe that positive thinking would be correlated with better survival data. But the weight of evidence does not support the thesis that optimistic attitude trumps the Big C, or even influences oncology outcomes.
Americans’ girth is growing at an alarming rate. Many are too sedentary, too stressed, suffering from insomnia, making bad food choices. The drumbeat of “We need a culture of health versus a sickness culture” is a refrain that we now often hear and that I have espoused.