A reader writes:
What this physician wrote really summed it up for me: "Ultimately, the American sense of entitlement, so long appeased and encouraged by our commercial culture, is what is poisoning the healthcare system. Doctors have played into it and are just as guilty for caving in when they know better, or billing for procedures a patient doesn't really need."
Coming from Sweden, I have experienced a health care system that is often heavily criticized domestically for its sometimes long wait times for some surgeries (hip replacement for example), but generally people appreciate it because it works and it is reasonably cost-efficient, and tax-payer funded, in other words, everyone is insured. I personally loved the peace of mind the system brought, but I am not ideologically opposed to a private system. I just don't think we have a very good one here in the US.
But a recent incident reminded me about the main difference between the health care system in the US and the system in Sweden.
My grandmother, who is in her mid eighties, had fallen and injured her shoulder. This was on a Saturday, and she was taken to the hospital to have it tended to. They put her in a room, and she had it looked at by a nurse, but there was no doctor available to deal with it until after the weekend. They sent her home and set an appointment for her for Monday, and that was when a doctor looked at it. He determined that nothing needed to be done, except giving her drugs for the pain, and if need be antibiotics for any inflammation.
Now, having this story told to me, I was at first horrified. They just dumped her in a hospital room and then sent her home until Monday! The doctor didn't DO anything! I couldn't imagine how they could treat her in such an awful manner - here, she would have been looked at right away, they would surely have done some sort of procedure and sent her on her way. Much better!
But of course, as I found out, maybe I have just gotten so used to the "fix me, NOW!" mentality here in the US. My grandmother turned out to heal very nicely. She had gone home on Saturday with her arm in a sling, spent Sunday relaxing at her house (with pain medication, of course), went to the doctor on Monday. Amazingly, she managed to survive those extra 36 hours or so. Her shoulder healed completely, it took a few weeks.
Obviously, I have no idea exactly what would have been done in the US, and I don't know the details of the injury. I just have this nagging feeling that in the US, a team of staff would have done all sorts of tests, a doctor would have worked extra on Saturday to deal with it, a lot of therapy, drugs, maybe some surgical procedure would have been administered... just to make my grandmother feel like someone was DOING something... and then, in the end it would probably have had about the same result, just for a lot more money, but with the sense that something was "done".
I think what happened to my grandmother would have been completely unacceptable in the US for someone covered by private insurance. Hell, I thought it sounded unacceptable. But the more I was thinking about it, it just made sense. The doctor made the call that nature would do what it always does. And it did. What else did he REALLY need to do? The answer seems, to me, to be that if it had been here in the US, he would have needed to put up a whole charade in order to pretend that HE healed the patient, and that it wasn't just nature taking its course. Because, after all, we pay to be healed by doctors, not to just let time and the body heal itself.