The Business Model of Medicine and Money

Last week, The New York Times published an article titled, Putting a Price on Compassion by Dr. Pauline Chen which was a response to an opinion piece called Money and the Changing Culture of Medicine written by Dr. Pamela Hartzband and Dr. Jerome Groopman.

Now all three authors have been talking about a subject that has been on my mind recently, which is money’s role in medicine. We are currently in a dire situation. With the economy hurting, the fact that our health care cost is constantly rising with no reversing action in sight is disheartening and scary.

It seems to me that every health care policy maker or administrator has their own idea on how to heal the system. The government has proposed that electronic health care records will save hundreds of millions while others push for a European styled two-tier health care system that will reduce paperwork and provide unified health care.

Whatever the eventual solution is, it is undeniable that the role money will play medicine, and how we value the care provided, will be at the heart of health care cost. As Chen states, “Increasingly, we refer to patients as “clients” and “cases,” to doctors and clinicians as “service providers,” and to the very act of giving care as a commodity that can be graded, rated and quantified.”

There is a growing trend for patients to see themselves as consumers of medicine. Many now find their doctors through sites that provide ratings and reviews of physician performance. Patients can now shop around for the health team that can give them the best bang for the buck instead of choosing what might be best for their health.

I agree with the authors that putting a business model to medicine has helped improve the quality of service and responsibility in some areas. However, you must always remember that medicine is a profession,not a business.

At the center of every business is the first priority to make a profit and be self-sustaining. Though companies and corporations can provide many great products and services to consumers, the bottom line is they must break even and see profits. If not, they have failed as a business.

And at the heart of medicine and the health industry is patient care. The sick and dieing are first priority. Though many professionals make a living helping patients, when a patient’s health has been compromised, we have failed as health care workers.

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