A Different Way

to look at Life, Health, Business and Politics

Profit Over Patient: Ethics and the Business of Healthcare

Posted by Marietta chiropractor on February 25, 2008

I have a love-hate relationship with the healthcare profession.  On the one hand, it’s gratifying beyond words to be able to help people improve their health and their lives.  On the other hand, the business of healthcare may be doing more harm than good, in some cases.

In my own practice as a chiropractor, I often hear someone say,”This is awesome!  I never thought I could feel this good again”.  Unfortunately, I often hear those same people say something like, “Why haven’t I heard about this before now?” or “Why did I have to suffer so long when this has always been available?” or worse yet, “I don’t guess my doctor was telling me the truth about what you do.”

But, not all the bad I hear is about medicine or medical doctors.  Sometimes it’s something like “I went to one of you guys once.  And, I know the adjustments helped.  But, the guy ran up a huge bill and then quit seeing me when the insurance payments stopped” or “I just don’t think I can afford it right now.  My insurance doesn’t cover it.”

I’m an advocate of allowing the free market to resolve the problems with health care.  However, the free market is not allowed to express itself fully in the business of health care in America. Here are some specific problems I have with the business of healthcare and some different ways of dealing with them:

  • The Money Grub – There’s a practice called “exhaustion of benefits” in the healthcare business that spans every specialty.  The provider asks for your insurance card to verify benefits.  Not surprisingly, their recommendations for care tend to coincide with what your insurance carrier says they’ll pay.  Possible solution: Verify your own benefits and get your provider’s recommendation BEFORE verifying coverage OR see what their recommendations are if you paid cash at the time you received the service.
  • Fear-mongering – This is where you’re told “You MUST have this procedure or take this drug or you’ll die!”  This is using pure power on the doctor’s part and the patient’s ignorance to almost force them to do what the doctor tells them.  Possible solution: Patient’s deserve to be told the truth in rational, unemotional terms what their specific problem is and what the doctor’s recommendations are.
  • (Not so) Full disclosure – There’s a tendency in health care to tell folks to “Sign these forms so we can get started”.  You have a right to know exactly what the doctor has found, what his/her recommendations are, what the risks of those recommendations are and what alternatives to this procedure or drug that exist WITHOUT injecting any bias the doctor may have.  Possible solution: Doctor’s should take time to get to know their patients.  Ask probing questions and give honest answers.  Be honest about their lack of knowledge when it exists, especially about less aggressive alternatives.
  • Too  anxious to be too invasive – Sometimes as doctors, there’s the urge to DO SOMETHING now!  The haste to act now, can make things worse than if nothing were done, at all.  Possible solution: One of the safest and most valuable tools in the doctor’s bag of tricks is something we call “watchful waiting”, where you give your body time to resolve a potential problem on its own without aggressive treatment.
  • OOPS! – Sometimes, health care providers make mistakes.  Unfortunately, too many times the problem is covered to prevent lawsuits or unwanted exposure.  Possible solution: I heard someone say once, “Sunlight is the best antibiotic”.  It’s best to simply tell the truth.  The cover-up will always cause more problems than the problem being covered up.
  • Just too expensive – Because of third party reimbursement, health care in America has simply gotten too expensive.  Possible solution: Providers should be allowed to compete on a variety of different levels, including price, form of payment, type of service provided, etc.

Because the economics of healthcare are distorted by Government controls and intervention, as well as third party reimbursement, the free market is not allowed to properly regulate the business.  As a result, doctors, hospitals and drug makers have an extra duty to “do no harm” to those who must rely on their relative power in the marketplace.  The Internet now makes information too easily available to continue the imbalance of power between patient and provider.

I urge healthcare providers to always do the right thing.  Make sure your patients are fully informed and involved in their care.  Give them exceptional value.  Empower them to make better choices.  As for patients and the public at large, take charge of your health and your life.  Inform yourself of your alternatives.  Ask questions.  And continue asking until you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten the right information and ALL the information you need to make fully informed choices regarding your own health.  After all, it IS your responsibility.

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3 Responses to “Profit Over Patient: Ethics and the Business of Healthcare”

  1. kuma said

    think it’s true we as citizens have to get more information related to health and ask more questions about medications and medical procesdures. the states simplify health problems as whether people have money to pay for medicals, but no the best treatment possible. media have a role and doctors, citizens alike should strive to make those information more visible and popular.

  2. Kelly said

    Thanks for the information on healthcare business and ethics. I agree completly that healthcare providers should put their patients first.

    We recently wrote an article on ethics at Brain Blogger. What if a patient did not tell a doctor all the information they could about their condition/s? Would that be ethically wrong, or should the patients have the right to keep that information to themselves?

    We would like to read your comments on our article. Thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Kelly

  3. Dawn, you are absolutely correct, it shows that you’re an authority on the subject. I admire someone that takes the pride you have and with your projecton of information. oSo when i actually do sit down to read material, I appreciate well written and organized blogs like this one. I have it bookmarked and will be back. Thanks.

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