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Are America’s Healthcare Patients Too Trusting?

MedSmart Patients Are Skeptics


One of the “take-home” lessons of MedSmart Patients is that much of healthcare practice – experts estimate as much as 80%[1] – has no evidence to support it.

This helps explain why almost half of U.S. medical care is considered unnecessary, sub-standard and inappropriate.[2]

It may also explain why medical errors in the U.S., combined with over-reliance on dangerous prescription drugs, contribute to an estimated 200,000 or more avoidable deaths a year – causing more deaths than breast, colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancers combined.[3]

This is simply not the kind of healthcare performance that justifies the blind trust the consuming public routinely places in American medicine.

Think about it: what would you call someone anxious to surrender her or his life to an industry responsible for more accidental deaths than any industry on earth – and who submits to it enthusiastically,  always seeking more interventions?

Would you call them prudent consumers?

Or would you find them too trusting, maybe even naïve, about their medical care? Knowing what you know about our state of medical dysfunction – or soon will – might you even call them reckless?  

Real Medical Emergencies

This phenomenon is discussed in MedSmarts in the context of the unjustified trust – and resulting passivity – many consumers place in EMTs in times of medical emergencies.

It’s understandable that people panic in the face of medical emergencies and welcome the arrival of an ambulance to take the victim to the nearest hospital.

ambulance is often first line of healthcare in AmericaAnd while most of us assume there are standards in place for treating cardiac arrest victims at the scene, for example, the reality is there are no such national standards in place.

One study found EMTs spend less than half their time at the scene of a cardiac arrest performing vital chest compressions that keep oxygenated blood flowing to victims’ brains and other vital organs.[4]

This helps to explain why more than 9 out of 10 victims die from cardiac arrest before hospital discharge. Other studies show that continuous (uninterrupted) chest compressions triple cardiac arrest victims’ probability of survival. Yet only two states have adopted this standardized approach to emergency treatment of cardiac arrest victims.

It’s unlikely most consumers will do anything about such poor performance out of simple apathy and the pressures of making ends meet in a deteriorating economy. But those at several times the average risk for heart attack or stroke – which includes tens of millions of Americans – should think hard before surrendering to such inadequate healthcare.

Their odds of falling victim to medical malfeasance are far greater than average.

This audience – diabetics, hypertensives, and others at moderate-to-high risk with chronic disease – have the most to lose by passively accepting medical malfeasance that could cause them a premature death or a lifetime of disability.

And Bogus Emergencies

And it doesn’t stop with medical emergencies. The vast majority of elective open heart surgeries, angioplasties, spine surgeries, hip and knee replacements are unnecessary – as amply documented in the MedSmarts materials. Most patients don’t even realize many of these procedures are elective – they’re allowed to believe they’re emergencies and lifesaving procedures when they’re neither.

In other words, much of medical care in the U.S. is bogus. Yet health care reformers believe they’ve accomplished great things by exposing over 30 million more Americans to what are often bogus medical treatments and procedures.

True healthcare reform would go beyond health insurance to redress these abuses and failings in the delivery of medical care before millions more Americans are victimized.

Some of the uninsured will undoubtedly benefit with better access to healthcare, but others will be worse off unless fundamental reforms in the way healthcare is delivered are instituted before healthcare reform, or Obamacare, takes full effect.

While there are modest attempts to address these issues, at least cosmetically, there’s nothing in Obamacare that comes close to getting at the core systemic flaws discussed elsewhere on this blog and, in more detail, in the MedSmarts program..

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[1] Medical Rip-offs, Missing Evidence.
[2] The price of excess: Identifying waste in healthcare spending, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute, 4/08.
[3] Cancer Facts & Figures 2009. American Cancer Society.
[4] Interruptions of chest compressions during emergency medical systems resuscitation. Circulation 2005;122:1259-65.
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