One way to save Medicare (which is supposed to sink us financially in the next few years) is to fix time. By time I mean the amount of time that elapses between the time of discovery of a disease and its treatment. I also mean the time lost between the onset of a body health malfunction and the discovery or diagnosis of that trouble. If this time were used properly, our healthcare would improve at least an order of magnitude…and the cost would drop like a rock.
When I was first thinking about health care, I noticed time doesn’t seem to be emphasized enough, but it has a tremendous impact on American health care…time in the delivery of healthcare, especially how quickly the health problem is diagnosed and treatment begins is critical. Did you ever hear the words: “Every second counts” or “a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death?” Well, I did, and it stuck with me. It’s the reason you hear the words “Code Blue” broadcast over the hospital intercom system…somebody needs a lifesaving procedure, a cart, and they need it NOW!
Doctors described my heart attack in 1999 as “massive.” When I woke up in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, there were about ten doctors standing around my bed…one of them was telling the rest of the assembled docs what had happened to me last night when I appeared at their Emergency Room with pains of a heart attack. He was conducting a lesson and I was the topic of the “teachable moment.” Of course, he was taking all the credit for saving my life…he administered treatment to me very quickly, and he didn’t waste any time, starting immediately when I appeared at the hospital’s emergency room. He was right…he was a great doctor and his timing was impeccable. The key thing in his speech and the main point I remember was, “every second counts.” In a heart attack an artery to your heart is plugged, your heart is being starved for blood, it is dying, it can’t get enough nurishment fast enough, it reacts by shutting down all but your most vital organs, it pumps faster, harder, more erratically, and out-of-control. The longer it takes to get the blood flowing back to the heart, the more of your heart dies…and the dead part doesn’t work ever again. Get it? Faster is better, especially when it comes to strokes and heart attacks!
Why is this important? It affects almost every health issue that exists, the results are profound, and it affects nearly everything that puts a person in the hospital. It also affects lots of things that happen while a person is in the hospital or for those that are “stay-at-home” folks. People who live alone are especially vulnerable to circumstances where they can’t get any communication out if injured or are seriously ill.
What’s the answer? There are several things that can be done right now that can improve the quality of healthcare immediately, and several that are “futuristic” (but they aren’t that far off in the future, just a few years) that can have a huge impact on how we get healthcare, how good it is, and dramatically reduce its cost (at least in the circumstances I’m describing). Ambulance service needs to be greatly expanded and the health services delivered at home needs to be improved, plus pre-arrival, and finally ambulance healthcare services needs to be increased as much as possible. I talked about this in one of my videos. Healthcare needs to be broken down into two separate services. One is emergency service. Like a fire station. There needs to be a common emergency service that’s paid for by the government…just like the fire department. Then there needs to be a second service, one that you shop for, buy insurance for (or self-pay) and select your own doctor and hospital. In this arrangement you get the best of both worlds…you get the advantage of a common system of emergency care, which can have close multiple outlets, ambulance services, (like a fire station…maybe even part of the existing fire station system). This brings healthcare as close as possible to the patient. And, in addition, you also gain the competitive advantage of free market forces holding down costs in the second part called “personal choice healthcare.” This is the intelligent way to run healthcare.
Now, where’s our original “timing” idea come into play? Fast response must reside at the emergency service level. Ambulances need to be equipped with smart diagnostic equipment that is on-line to doctors immediately. Treatment can then be authorized and administered in the ambulance itself on the way to the hospital or the clinic.
In the second level of healthcare, the part you shop for and buy on your own, the advantages are obvious. You get to make your own free choices. The competitive nature of the free market, the miracle that made the USA the economic envy of the world, comes into play and acts to deliver the best healthcare at the lowest possible, competitive pricing. There is still a third aspect…what I called “futuristic.” By this I mean having a diagnostic chip on which you can put a drop of blood which will analyze your health condition and transmit it to the doctor immediately. This can possibly save even more time. All this can be done before the ambulance even gets to you…and pre-treatment could be self-administered. It would be even better and faster if this chip were implanted and would analyze your health condition constantly. This could detect diseases at the earliest stages, even before they manifest themselves, and could produce another boom in medicine. If caught early enough almost all diseases are curable.
I worked in the healthcare industry as a contract manager and as a local department head at two major hospitals in my working past. So I know what I’m talking about. There are a few more things that healthcare doesn’t manage very well that could help contribute to saving lives by reducing delivery time. Since healthcare is becoming dependent on large expensive machinery to analyze and see inside the human body…it would be practical to ‘share’ some of these devices. Take an MRI machine for instance. If one hospital has one, then all hospitals have to have one to be up-to-date. Then they need to pay for it. So many, sometimes too many, people are scheduled to get MRI’s at $1500 a pop, just to justify buying it. Wouldn’t it be better to use the machine in a real need situation by sharing it between several hospitals? Research in to promising drugs is another thing that should be shared. Sometimes drugs are not studied because they don’t have the attractive ROI as some other drug for a more well known disease. For example, a cancer curing drug is more desirable than one for herpes. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ‘share’ drug research too…and possibly write laws that allow drug profits to flow back into the healthcare business in general rather than just to the discoverer or patent holder.
Remember, we don’t want healthcare to cost less, we just want good value for our money. I assure you…there is lots of money to be saved in the healthcare business, and the care we get would go up dramatically too. We are getting very close to immortality, but it isn’t going to be cheap!