The cost of medical care is one of the top issues we face today–not only for individuals, but also for health care providers, employers, insurance organizations, pharmaceutical companies and the government.
As a physician on the front line, I see how each player is impacted by actions of all the others. While it is easy to point fingers and blame someone else for escalating costs, in reality everyone is responsible to a degree.
From my perspective as a health care provider, I most commonly deal with the plight of the individual. On a daily basis I see people avoiding or delaying care due to cost. Decisions about medications are frequently made based more on expense than benefit. In an unfortunate form of irony, it is not uncommon for these same people to unknowingly make decisions that actually increase their costs in the long run, or waste money outright.
One of the primary problems is that individuals do not really have an advocate to help them cost-effectively navigate the complex health care system. Physicians strive to provide them top-notch care, but simply don’t have the time to explain (or even themselves understand) all the ways that treatment decisions may impact cost. Pharmacists often help find less-expensive alternatives to individual medications, but they are busy, too. Various resources do exist to help with cost, but are often not widely known and commonly apply to limited situations.
Do I have the solution for all of this? Well, not entirely. However, each and every day I find situations where I am able to help people to save on their care. I don’t mean just telling everyone to switch to generic medications and order prescriptions in bulk quantities. Sometimes it is making people aware of savings promotions or cost-cutting resources. More often it is helping people to understand how they can manage their conditions more cost-effectively, or avoid unnecessary tests and office visits. Sometimes it is a simple as evaluating whether a particular medication is still needed.
Years ago I would encounter an occasional patient lamenting their medical expenses. Today it is unusual to run into a person not concerned about cost. Suspecting that there might me a wider audience than my work day provides, I have decided to see what happens with a blog devoted to the issue.
I do not propose to adhere to any particular format. I expect it will be a mix of brief articles, links to helpful resources, and observations from my day. Each will be from the angle of reducing medical expenses without sacrificing the quality of care. Perhaps in aggregate they will help not only individuals, but also the other players.
I am excited to see where the journey leads us.
Stephen Meyers, MD