Inadequate Health Care In The U.S
A study published in the March 16th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that Americans, across the bar, are receiving unacceptably substandard healthcare. Despite suspicions regarding healthcare discrepancies between different societal groups, researchers maintain that all races, genders and social economic levels are affected by this inadequate healthcare problem.
“There’s no question that disparities exist, but the big variations are not between groups, but between what people are getting and what people should be getting,” commented Dr. Steven M. Asch of Rand Health, the pioneers of the study. According to the final results of the study, people were on average receiving 54.9 percent of the health care recommended by appointed experts.
“Everyone, men and women, rich and poor, insured and uninsured, are at risk. No matter who you are, it’s almost a flip of the coin as to whether you get the care that experts want for you,” Asch added.
The study was conducted through phone interviews and the examination of the medical records of 6,700 patients who received health care between the years of 1996 and 2000. In order to effectively examine the evidence, 439 specialists were appointed by the most qualified experts in their field to evaluate the treatment provided for 30 chronic and acute conditions.
The results found after the four-year study were unsettling:
· Women were found to receive more preventative and chronic care in comparison with men
· Women were found to receive more recommended care than men
· Men were more likely to receive vital acute care than women
· African Americans and Hispanics were found to receive more recommended care than whites
· Healthcare quality declined steadily with age
· People with incomes over $50,000 received more recommended care
· Insurance providers seemed to have no effect on the healthcare provided
The authors of the study believe that the results may not even indicate the full extent of the problems in healthcare, since the study on examined treatment provided in the actual doctor visit, and not the access to healthcare or follow up treatment.
“If you take it all the way down the chain, it could actually be much worse,” commented Elizabeth McGlynn, associate director of Rand Health and the senior author of the healthcare study. “In some ways, 55 percent is an overestimate of the chain of events leading to whether or not people’s health is as good as it could be.”
So why are Americans receiving such inadequate healthcare in an age where technology and resources are abundantly available? According to Dr. Asch, “There’s been an explosion of medical knowledge, and of the possibilities of what can be done for you over the past five to 10 years.” Despite the enormity of medical knowledge, there is technology available to deal with this phenomenon; it is just underused, adds Asch.
“The system is not set up; information technology can make a difference,” says Asch.
Another problem facing healthcare today, according to the study is a lack of feedback from patients to doctors. “Physicians and patients have little idea how often they are succeeding or failing because such information is pretty hard to get,” Asch comments.
“We wouldn’t tolerate this [inadequacy] in almost any other sector of society.”
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