The national conversation about the cost of healthcare tends to focus on the nebulous problems that face all demographics of Americans: How will we pay for individual and family healthcare? Who should be covered? Is there a way to look out for Americans who need help but can’t afford it? These questions have many answers, but the one solution to all of them is decreasing the cost of healthcare.
Hospitals have gone from low-tech charities to billion dollar facilities. Hospitals have got to order everything from scalpels to anesthetic to high quality washers to clean all the scrubs and hospital garments. Pharmaceuticals cost hospitals between $30 and $50 billion in 2005, and the price has only increased. The light bill? You don’t even want to know.
Decreasing the cost of healthcare is easier said than done, to be sure, but solutions don’t always have to be sweeping edicts signed into law by the president. Many times, there are small things hospital managers can do to reduce the cost of running a hospital facility and the operating costs that figure into healthcare bills. Here are a few ways we can make our healthcare system more efficient.
One of the worst feelings is going to the doctor and being told, “Further tests will have to be taken.” We live in a society where we want to be able to catch everything, and while we certainly have a means to get that information, the cost can be high, especially if there is no problem. Consider this example from the House of Representatives’ Ideas to Improve Healthcare:
“…A young man at the Livingston town hall related that he and his wife had emptied a good portion of their savings to come up with the $2,000 co-payment for a colonoscopy test and reading. His point was simple: if we are encouraging people to actively seek preventive medicine why are the common tests so expensive, even to those with insurance?”
The tests can be wasteful for the hospitals that issue them, and so to cut down on both waste and costs, hospitals should only administer tests when they are absolutely necessary. General medicine is often enough to glean the afflictions of patients, however in today’s hypochondriac society which is aided and abetted by amateur diagnosis on WebMD, many people think their conditions are worse than they really are.
Standardizing the language on medical billing and insurance claims increases transparency and efficiency. A large part of the problem with the flow of capital in hospitals is late payments by insurers, patients etc. Some of this is just delinquency, but oftentimes late payments stem from the labyrinth of jargon that the average patient must slog through. This results in confusion, late payments and increased costs for everyone. A simplification of the terms ought to make it easier to collect the payments.
One of the larger problems with the hospital system is records. For many doctors, technology is the problem:
“One hospital system told me they are spending millions of dollars establishing an electronic medical records system throughout all of their facilities – but at the end of the day will likely be unable to send their patient’s information to a neighboring hospital a block away due to different data and software standards.”
A national standard for electronic medical records that ensures the possible transfer of records from one hospital’s system to the next would save hospitals millions of dollars in setting up new systems every decade to keep up with new technologies.
[box type="important"]Decreasing the cost of healthcare is a monumental task, but with real reform and small changes, we can completely alter the shape of health in America for the better. [/box]
Thomas Stone blogs on behalf of Sears and other prestigious brands. He enjoys studying domestic policy, and citizen journalism.