The good, the bad, the goofy
Recent doings in healthcare world run the gamut
Some notes on recent news:
* The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations should be commended on its just-implemented policy concerning quality disclosures (June 25, p. 4). This directive requires hospitals to tell patients when they have received substandard care. It is a good step in the direction of patient-centered medicine and long overdue.
A few providers and lawyers have taken a predictably defensive stance, maintaining the policy will engender malpractice suits. But evidence shows that people are more likely to litigate if they believe their caregivers have lied or hidden the truth.
The new directive should be given a chance and, if the Joint Commission is really serious, enforced vigorously.
* If healthcare providers and insurers wonder why they are often held in low esteem, they can look at the current mess in Pittsburgh. There, a coalition of health plans led by Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has sued UPMC Health System in an effort to block the system's acquisition of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (June 25, p. 18). The insurers contend the deal would stifle competition and drive up healthcare costs. Highmark, which previously offered Children's a gift of $100 million to fund a replacement facility, has upped the ante to $250 million. Children's signed a sweeter pact with UPMC that included $250 million for a replacement hospital and another $250 million over 10 years for pediatric research.
The developments constitute another sad, yet almost comical, example of hospitals and insurers vying to control more "lives" and wield more economic clout. Much of the past decade has been a huge zero-sum game in which participants carve up the market but create no new value for patients.
Pennsylvania residents may wonder why there are so many medically indigent people when providers and insurers can plunk so much money on the table in a corporate poker game.
* The games they are playing at the American Medical Association are major league (June 25, p. 12). The AMA's chief executive officer files a $5 million defamation and breach of contract suit against his own organization during the group's House of Delegates meeting.
And the House of Delegates defers action to curb the use of its Physician Masterfile, a mother lode of information drug companies mine to target doctors through their prescribing patterns. The database generates $23 million in annual revenue for the AMA.
This is an organization that, as much as any other, including the managed-care companies it hates so much, needs to refocus on patients.