Home > Challenges, Economics, Politics > A Healthier World

A Healthier World

The health care debate is usually an issue I stay away from in my blogging. It is ultimately extremely complex, and such a complicated and politically charged area of policy that it is hard to cover in my mere contribution to the blog world.

In the New York Times preview of its Magazine, which usually appears on Thursdays, the Times covered a hospital called Intermountain in Utah. The hospital itself is one that has implemented a system of set protocol to administer care, as opposed to relying solely on a doctor’s “intuition.”

Wait! Before you scream at me! I love doctor’s intuition. My mother is in Oncology, and I have always relied on her intuition about things – and not just because of the fact that she is my mom. A doctor’s ability to diagnose and remedy a situation is paramount, and many patients blindly follow physician advice.

At Intermountain, the goal is to utilize well-researched and documented illnesses to learn about what the most cost-effective and low-risk treatments are for patients. The intuition plays a role – but the role of statistics is also there.

Normally, I wouldn’t really agree with statistics over a person’s particular view. But I have had a biased experience.

In May of this year, I developed really awful bronchitis. I couldn’t talk, and I couldn’t touch my chest because the pain was so bad. I had health insurance through work, but had never set up a primary care doctor in Manhattan – the land of 4 month waiting periods for appointments. So I opted for the Beth Israel D.O.C.S. clinic on 34th Street, where doctors can see you (briefly) and write you a script as a walk-in patient.

The doctor didn’t do a xray, and sent me away with a prescription for an antibiotic. I had an upper respiratory infection. (DUH). So I take my first dose, and I get so sick that I wind up almost on the floor of the Time Warner Center Borders Books trying to call him to give me something else. He finally agrees, and I take it for 10 days, and go back to my running, my moving out of New York, my life.

Fast forward to mid-June. I am freshly new to DC, and am full-on into the job hunt. All of a sudden I feel really tired. So I decided to make the same mistake twice, and go to an urgent care center near my parent’s house. They decide they want an x-ray (Imagine!) and – ack! – the doctor calmly tells me she sees “a little somethin'” and I should probably go to the ER to check it out. You know. To be safe.

TEARS! What?! I was just going in there for another quick and easy prescription fix!

We get to the ER (the husband, the mom, and me.) and we wait. And we wait. And all of a sudden there is a needle. And a cat-scan with some weird dye. And then this woman comes in and sits down. She calmly explains that “you have a blood clot in your lung. And if you leave here, you will die.”

TEARS! Okay, there was also some cursing, and another radar x-ray of my legs, and then some overnight admission to the hospital, and 2 injections of blood thinners into my stomach.

Fast forward to 3PM the following day, when they finally get the actual lung doctor to see me. He comes in, takes two seconds look at my scan, and says “What are they talking about? This isn’t a blood clot. It’s bad pneumonia. Looks like that wasn’t bronchitis after all.” He wrote me a script for heavy medicine, and I was better within a week.

Phew. My wrists actually hurt from typing all of that. Are you still with me?

Basically, my tale of woe relates back to intuition for the following reason: The woman in the ER saw my x-ray, and knew I had a risk factor (birth control) and assumed blood clot. She could have gotten sued if I had gone home and died. Her intuition was more focused on not getting sued, than on simply bringing in a lung specialist in the first place, and getting a correct answer.

I was left with: A large bill (thankfully covered by insurance), PTSD from the entire thing, and a complete distrust of the healthcare system. Not to mention the fact that all day I took up space in a room that could have gone to someone who really needed it.

Intermountain is controversial in its approach, and it is not the only answer to our woes. But we must rethink healthcare in this country. We spend so much, and gain a fear of cost – rather than a desire to do what is best for ourselves in the long-term.

I welcome comments on this issue – it is one I am just starting to learn more about, and I would love to hear from some experts.

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Categories: Challenges, Economics, Politics
  1. Ed
    November 5, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I havne’t paid much attention to health care lately, so I’m not an expert for either side. This morning I heard the funniest commercial yet for the health care reform. I just moved to Denver, home of the Denver Bronchos. This was the commercial: “With the new health care reform, your tax dollars could provide care for Raiders fans. Don’t let that happen.”

    Sorry to hear about your accidental hospital stay; that must have been really frustrating!

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