Chicago Tribune's "United States of Anxiety" series

The Chicago Tribune, in the middle of a good story with a catchy headline – “The United States of Anxiety: Worried Sick Over Our Health Care” – includes some vital messages:

“Polls show voters worry a lot about health care and how much they spend on it. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have responded by peddling plans they claim will help more Americans attain and afford care.

But neither candidate has focused publicly on treating the real problem: why American medical care costs too much and isn’t as good as it should be.

We waste money on tests and visits to specialists that don’t make us better. We spend big to add a few weeks or months to the inevitable end of a dying patient’s life. We use expensive technology at any cost, even when it exceeds our needs, and we fail to encourage simple, proactive steps that would keep us healthier and save us money. We often don’t know which treatments work the best, so we err on the side of too much care, for too much cost, with sometimes damaging consequences.

As a result, Americans pay significantly more for medical care than anyone else in the industrialized world. Every year, we spend a bigger chunk of our family budget on doctor bills, hospital stays and prescription drugs. Yet we trail several other nations in health-care quality, access and efficiency.

Most Americans have long assumed that more is better when it comes to their health: more doctors, more tests, more hospital time. But a decade of comprehensive studies suggests that all those visits and tests and hospital stays are often a waste of money—and sometimes a drag on our well-being.”

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Comments (2)

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Bill Gleason

September 26, 2008 at 6:45 pm

At the risk of oversimplification…
Perhaps we should be spending more effort on the fundamentals of medicine? Atul Gwande’s “checklist,” Warren Warwick’s insistence on being tough with young patients fighting cystic fibrosis, rating diabetes care on some pretty simple, trackable, steps. We need to look at who is doing a good job at the practice of medicine and making this information available to the general public.
“Translational research,” is the latest fad phrase being used to extract money from the government by NIH. Perhaps more of the massive amount of money being used to support our biomedical research enterprise should go to that old-time religion, traditional family-centered medicine?
Shortly we are not going to have a choice.
Bill Gleason