Moving the Focus Off Money and Back On Healing: Our healthcare system is too financially driven, says Dr. Harlan Sparer, which can lead to mediocrity in care services.
Feb 27, 2015 12:47PM
● By Dr. Harlan Sparer
It’s a fact of life that many doctors' offices, no matter what the specialty, are about money from the minute we enter until well after we leave. Like any other business, the healthcare system is financially driven. Its flaws revolve around deriving maximum profit from illness, not simply receiving compensation for legitimately providing health advice and care services.
Profit and loss dictate decisions about modes of treatment, denial or supply of treatment and selection of treatment. Insurance company accountants and attorneys are currently the movers and shakers in our health care system as a result. This trend began in the 1980s with the onset of health maintenance organizations (HMO) and participating provider organizations (PPO). As a result, health insurance morphed into an insurance-driven decision making model.
Modern health care decisions are often made by non-providers unfamiliar with the details of a patient’s problems and by lumping together similar diagnoses to calculate treatment protocols based on statistics. There are several faults with this mathematical algorithm-oriented process. Treatment can become robotic and sometimes not devoted to root causes or retreating symptoms repeatedly as they manifest.
When a patient enters a doctor’s office, a diagnosis is usually quickly selected. The problem with this is that many people have some variation of a typical diagnosis. There are often several other factors that may influence patient response, including related diagnoses, psycho-spiritual state, diet and nutrition. All are ignored in modern calculations. The desire to reduce a healthcare issue to a cheap, frameable, lowest common denominator may lead to disaster, because key components and causes of a problem (preventative medicine) are discarded in favor of symptomatic treatment.
This has led to the perpetration of mediocrity in our healthcare system. A doctor that treats symptoms only, with frequent visits, is offered greater financial reward than one that gets to the root of the problem under the current model. Unnecessary tests to prevent litigation or provide legitimacy in a courtroom are also commonplace.
Doctors often treat health care issues with supplements or drugs, rather than teaching patients about a healthy diet and how to prepare nutritious food. The list of flaws is deep and long, but ultimately, the issue distills to this: Our healthcare system is ordered toward maximization of profit instead of maximization of well-being. If health care is indeed symptom-driven, we might heed the words of Benjamin Franklin, who said, “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.”