Our U.S. healthcare system is good, especially with regard to medical technologies, advances in pharmaceuticals, highly trained and qualified specialists and sub-specialists treating all kinds of diseases, and a cadre of compassionate and caring front line workers in hospitals and clinics nationwide. BUT, there are a few issues, including mass confusion around Covid and its variants; medical practices and hospitals as big businesses with a bottom line mentality over patient service and support; a lack of coordination around timely delivery of services; and a current crisis in adequate staffing in hospitals. There are more problems than these. I chose these because I have experienced them up close and personal.
There is ongoing research on the remediation of the top 8 killer diseases – Heart disease, Cancer, Chronic lower respiratory diseases, Stroke, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Flu and Pneumonia. I live with the first one which is likely to take me around the bend but we won’t know that for awhile. We do not know what may be around the next curve that could be a surprise. One mantra is to anticipate the unexpected.
I am enormously grateful to those who intervened appropriately with my own situation in 2018. They were highly skilled cardiologists and had my enthusiastic support. Thus, I can testify in some small ways to what works, as well as what doesn’t work. I know survivors of all of these diseases and I knew others who did not survive and in both cases, those who survived and those who did not, an accurate, timely diagnosis and treatment made a difference. Most people I know have their own personal stories about engaging with our healthcare system with both positive and negative results. We tend to remember the unpleasant ones as in the “every time I drop my jelly bread, I drop it jelly side down.” If you don’t know what that means, let me know and I’ll explain.
I recall reading an amazing book by Siddartha Mukherjee, “The Emperor of All Maladies” which was an in-depth look at Cancer, its causes, treatments and ongoing research. Published in November 2010 by Scribner, it won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction: the jury called it “an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal”. This was 12 years ago! Here is a more recent article by Mukherjee that is a good commentary on the topic of this blog, our broken and problematic healthcare system.
There is an extraordinary amount of money dedicated to research on Cancer alone. The budget of the National Cancer Institute, a federal agency founded in 1937, now totals over $6 billion/year. That is a fraction of the total spent on research by nonprofit foundations, private firms and other government agencies. Consider that there are many different types of cancer and many different treatment modalities. It’s a complex composite of variables. One has to wonder what kinds of progress we’re making on this front along with all the others. The National Institutes of Health alone invests nearly $30.1 billion annually in medical research for the American people.
While reading an opinion piece this morning in the NYTimes, I came across this sentence. “America is at a fork in the road with respect to the health of the nation.” You may or may not believe that and my goal is not to convince you one way or the other. My intention is to lay out what I know, what I see, what I have experienced and you decide how you want to respond to this healthcare crisis, if at all. I write about it as a way of releasing some pent up thoughts and feelings which otherwise get dumped on my closest and dearest. Here, FYI, is a link to the Times article. Dr. Dave Chokski who knows whereof he speaks.
For a final reference (for now) have a look at the chart in the link below comparing national healthcare systems. Look especially at life expectancy, progress between 1990 & 2017 and out of pocket expenses. The U.S. does not rank particularly high in any of those categories, # 21 in progress while Canada is # 7. There is some evidence that life expectancy in the U.S. is going down and all of us know about out of pocket expense and the health insurance games. For a long time I jokingly said I thought there was a conspiracy among insurance companies, big pharma, hospitals and doctors with the docs being told how to practice medicine by the insurance companies. Now that does not seem very funny.