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Unread 18th August 2009, 04:23 PM
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Post 'How American Health Care Killed My Father'

There's been a lot of talk about health care around here recently, but I had to add David Goldhill's article in the latest copy of The Atlantic to the mix. This is definitely one you want to read.

Goldhill's father passed away two years ago as the result of a hospital-borne infection he contracted in the ICU, an experience that prompted Goldhill to begin a closer examination of our health-care industry. Looking at his father's experience in the hospital from the perspective of a businessman "left him befuddled":
How can a facility featuring state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment use less-sophisticated information technology than my local sushi bar? How can the ICU stress the importance of sterility when its trash is picked up once daily, and only after flowing onto the floor of a patient’s room? Considering the importance of a patient’s frame of mind to recovery, why are the rooms so cheerless and uncomfortable? In whose interest is the bizarre scheduling of hospital shifts, so that a five-week stay brings an endless string of new personnel assigned to a patient’s care? Why, in other words, has this technologically advanced hospital missed out on the revolution in quality control and customer service that has swept all other consumer-facing industries in the past two generations?

I’m a businessman, and in no sense a health-care expert. But the persistence of bad industry practices—from long lines at the doctor’s office to ever-rising prices to astonishing numbers of preventable deaths—seems beyond all normal logic, and must have an underlying cause. There needs to be a business reason why an industry, year in and year out, would be able to get away with poor customer service, unaffordable prices, and uneven results—a reason my father and so many others are unnecessarily killed.
Goldhill, a Democrat, found several reasons -- none of which will be addressed by the current reforms under consideration in Congress, he says, but will only put Band-Aids on a structure rotting from its core.
Accidentally, but relentlessly, America has built a health-care system with incentives that inexorably generate terrible and perverse results. Incentives that emphasize health care over any other aspect of health and well-being. That emphasize treatment over prevention. That disguise true costs. That favor complexity, and discourage transparent competition based on price or quality. That result in a generational pyramid scheme rather than sustainable financing. And that—most important—remove consumers from our irreplaceable role as the ultimate ensurer of value.
All of this is excerpted from just the first page of a much longer article; you will really want to print out and read the whole thing. There's a lot to chew over there. (And if you just don't have time to read a 10,000-word article today, check out John Schwenkler's summary here.)
http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=-How-American-Health-Care-Killed-My-Father-.html&Itemid=127
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The more I follow the online discussions ... the more I follow the debates and disagreements in the Church about administrative unity, or the concerns expressed about the moral or personal or administrative or leadership failings of the bishops or the clergy, the more I become convinced that whatever might be the truth of these concerns, ALL of this is simply a distraction. No, it’s more than that. It’s a justification, an excuse, for not helping each other and those outside the Church fall in love with Jesus Christ. How easy it is to talk about everything, but about Jesus hardly at all.


- Fr. Gregory Jensen
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