Thursday, November 28, 2013

How patient advocacy can help to reduce avoidable care

Our conference on Patient Advocacy - Giving Voice to the Patient, was a big hit !

We are seeing an epidemic of overdiagnosis and overtreatment  today, leading to excessive medical care which is wasteful and expensive . This is called avoidable care.

There are many reasons for this.
o    Doctors have started practicing defensive medicine , in order to protect themselves from lawsuits for medical negligence
o    Demanding patients want the doctor to use the latest medical technology for their treatment
o    Doctors are seduced into using the latest technology, thanks to marketing pressures from pharma  who aggressively market the latest and most expensive drugs; and medical device manufacturers who push the latest and most expensive technology
o    Because of the issue of moral hazard , patients don’t care about the cost of this new and expensive technology, because it is health insurance companies who are footing the bills, and they don’t have to pay out of their pocket

Sadly, there are no checks and balances today. This hurts everyone.

o    Care gets depersonalized and fragmented amongst too many specialists
o    The latest technology is not always the best. Sometimes, time-tested and proven technology is much safer. There is always a learning curve with new gizmos, and patients end up being used as guinea pigs . Thus, it’s common to read about how drug companies are forced to withdraw the newest blockbuster drugs from the market,  because of side effects which were not recognised  during the research and development process
o    As care becomes more expensive, health insurance premiums will keep on going up

Patient advocacy can help to resolve many of these problems

•    One of one personal patient advocates . They act as well-informed intermediaries , who serve as a bridge between doctors and patients, helping to keep both happy
•    On a system wide basis, health insurance companies and the government can promote patient advocacy . Health insurance companies need to start investing in health guardians and health coaches who help patients to get the right care – not too much and not too little !

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