Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys appreciate that what virtually all local residents want in their medical care is quality. Community members expect and deserve that their medical professionals will act reasonably at all times to provide the best care possible. The reasonable cost of that care is hard to pinpoint, but it is safe to say that there should be a happy medium when it comes to medical finances: profit considerations should never influence what is done or how it is done.
An editorial in the Florida Times-Union delved into the confusing issues of medical quality and cost of care. The underlying principle in the article was that high costs do not automatically lead to better medical care. In fact, the argument is made that the current medical system-and its excessive costs-are not only making Americans poorer but sicker as well.
For one thing, the opinion begins by reiterating a point that each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm tries to share daily: medical treatment can actually cause more harm than good. Nearly 100,000 people die every year in the United States as a result of medical errors. Another 1 million Americans are injured because of medical mistakes. These stats include many different issues, from hospital acquired infections to surgical errors.
Obviously there are real physical consequences for these errors. On top of that, however, are the financial consequences.
The editorial argues that there are perverse incentives in some medical care, where costs are not controlled because the individuals who do the work have money to gain by performing more medical work-whether or not it is needed or logical in the circumstances. The incentives are further distorted because third-parties are responsible for paying in most cases.
There may finally be a shift toward greater public understanding of these issues and the need to increase the quality of care both to save money and make us healthier. For example, as our medical malpractice lawyers discussed a few months ago, some medical professionals are identifying treatments that are overused and often unnecessary. That includes repeat colonoscopies without warning factors, antibiotics for sinuses not caused by bacteria, and stress tests for the healthy.
One book on the topic goes over these issues in detail, entitled “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.” In the book the author calls our current healthcare an “unfair, dysfunctional and spectacularly expensive system.”
A large part of the problem is the “fee-for-service” concept in most places. Doctors are financially rewarded for providing more care, regardless of whether the care is necessary or actually helps the patient. This problem is exacerbated with a proliferation of medical specialties. Instead of primary care physicians who act as patient advocates, more and more specialists are consulted which increase costs and increase the likelihood that specific treatments will be used, whether they are helpful or not. That is why the editorial argues that an important first step in improving the system is to encourage more primary care physicians to help act as an overall patient advocate.
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