How Can Health Care Be More Efficient?

It’s impossible for me to ignore the health care debate raging in my home country. One constant theme in the U.S. regarding improving health care is the need for better monitoring of what hospitals and doctors actually do, and which treatments actually work. This is not at all easy to do, but some doctors and hospitals are developing good models of tracking efficiency and efficacy of treatments. This would seem obvious to do, no? And yet almost nothing is done for quality control in medicine. One problem is cultural, as doctors love to rely on intuition and clinical judgment. However, as is shown time and time again in all medical specialties, doctors’ “common wisdom” will be finally studied well and found to be not useful. Then there’d be the the usual stages of outrage and denial, followed first by acceptance and then enthusiastic support of the new, proven therapy. The New York Times Sunday magazine has an outstanding review of such efforts to provide evidence-based quality control measures to modern medicine. I urge all interested people to read this article, and leave you with a good quote:

…The human mind can store huge amounts of knowledge. Intuition is not simply belief; it springs from this knowledge. A doctor making an intuitive diagnosis is doing so on the basis of thousands of hours spent treating patients. The problem, however, is that the mind is not particularly good at sorting through this knowledge and weighing different parts appropriately. We give too much weight to information that confirms our suspicions or that is highly memorable…

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