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A “Third Place” In Healthcare: What We Can Learn From Starbucks

Media reports on misdiagnosis continue to mount. A recent study on patients with Alzheimer’s found that half had been misdiagnosed. Half.

Another headline blared “4 out of 10 patients being misdiagnosed.” The article encouraged patients to “see another doctor” if they are worried about their diagnosis.

You know what it makes me think about? Starbucks. Why? Because the way Starbucks revolutionized coffee drinking shows a way forward for healthcare.

Starbucks realized that since our lives focus on two places — home and work — most of us don’t have a “third place” to go. A place where we can be free of everyday distractions and take care of ourselves. Starbucks set out to create that “third place” by making its shops comfortable, inviting places. It works. “Third place” makes customers’ lives better — and Starbucks has almost 20,000 shops to prove it.

It’s time for a kind of “third place” in healthcare. Healthcare focuses on two places, too: The doctor’s office and the hospital. Both places are difficult for patients. Patients complain of not getting enough time from their overworked doctors, and studies of things that go wrong in hospitals are equally disturbing.

There really isn’t a “third place” to go to in healthcare. Somewhere that you can step outside of the difficult process of being sick. Somewhere you can get a quiet, clear perspective of what is going on.

Now, some people are lucky and can turn to relatives or friends who are doctors to provide some of that “third place” experience. But most people can’t. At Best Doctors, we’re creating the experience of a healthcare “third place.” We do it by taking the time to review each case, have doctors think about what’s happening, consult with experts, and share advice. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

The Worst Healthcare System In The World

The worst healthcare system in the world is the United States, of course. Oh no, wait — it’s Canada. Actually, it could be Germany. Geez, now I think it might be the UK.

You could go on and on like this, but you know what? No matter how good or bad your healthcare system is, there are certain universal truths. Here are four of them that might make you look at global healthcare a little differently:

First, healthcare is getting more expensive, all over the world. A new study by the global consultant, Towers Watson (disclosure: Towers Watson is a Best Doctors client) found that the average medical cost trend around the world will be 10.5 percent in 2011. In the advanced economies costs will rise by an average of 9.3 percent. While Americans tend to think of rising medical costs as a uniquely American problem (they’ll rise by 9.9 percent here), it’s just not true. Canadian costs will rise by 13.3 percent. In the UK and Switzerland, they will increase by 9.5 percent, and in France by 8.4 percent.

Why is it happening? As ever, the main drivers are the increasing availability of new medical therapies — and inappropriate use of care. We see the same phenomenon at Best Doctors in our global experience. Across the world, our data for 2010 showed that just over 20 percent of patients had an incorrect diagnosis, and about half were pursuing inappropriate treatment plans. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Workers Compensation: A Model For The Future Of American Healthcare?

There’s a country with an unusual healthcare system. In it, you often spend about as much time with your lawyer as you do your doctor. There are special courts set up to decide what kinds of treatment you are allowed to have. And doctors have to be careful that they don’t say or do the wrong thing, or else they risk being blackballed by insurance companies.

The country:  The United States of America.

You may not realize it, but if you hurt your back at work you end up in a different healthcare system than if you hurt your back at home. Sure, you may end up with similar doctors or hospitals, but your experience of healthcare will be completely different. Here’s why.

If you get hurt at work, you’re covered by the “workers compensation” system. That system has its roots over a century ago, when employers didn’t do much to take care of workers. So the system is based on laws that mandate employers to take care of injured workers, often for the rest of their lives. In exchange for this very comprehensive coverage, employers and their insurers get a great deal of control over what care workers get and where they get it.

Does the workers compensation system represent a model of how a future American healthcare system might work? It might. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

How Bad The Government Is At Selling Insurance (Or Is It?)

Did you know there is actually a “public option” in the health care reform law?  It’s true — it’s called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), and it’s designed to cover people who who have been unable to get insurance because of a pre-existing condition. To hear the stories about how big of a problem this is in America, you’d think a product like this would be a big hit. Except it’s been a big flop.

How big of a flop? Well, according to the Washington Post, they missed their sales targets by 98 percent:

Government economists had projected that people turned down by private insurers would flock to the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, with 375,000 expected to sign up this year. But as of this week, a little more than 8,000 had enrolled, officials said.

According to the Post, it seems the government has figured out what they think the problem is: “sticker shock.” The price was too high. So they’re dropping the price by 20 percent and significantly enhancing the benefits. But can that really be the problem? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

5 Tips For Diagnosing Yourself Online

“What’s the highest peak in North America, Mt. McKinley or Denali?” This is a great question the Web can answer for you. “What’s that lump on my neck?”  This is another great question — but not one you should rely on the Web to solve.

Best Doctors recently conducted a Twitter-based poll to find out what channels of information people use to get healthcare advice.  It turns out, 54 percent of respondents use the Web as their primary source of information. Is this kind of do-it-yourself medicine a good idea?

I’m a firm believer that you should do everything you can to make sure you’re getting the right care when you’re sick. But before you start your do-it-yourself journey, here are five things to keep in mind:

1. To get the right answer, you need to ask  the right questions. If you decide that that lump on your neck is a sign of lymphoma, you’re going to get very worried and start researching everything you can on lymphoma. You may see your doctor and when he tells you it’s actually a benign cyst, you’re going to have a hard time believing him. Now, your skepticism is a good thing, but before you start driving yourself crazy with serious conclusions, make sure you have your facts straight. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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