Over the top

November 30, 2005

Surgery is expensive and it’s a difficult cost for health insurers to control. So insurers are using a new tactic –graphic, gory still images and videos of surgery– to discourage patients from proceeding, according to the Wall Street Journal. The article positions the videos as:

…part of the push toward so-called consumer-driven health care, a movement that encourages patients to be more discriminating shoppers, in part by requiring them to spend more of their own money.

I don’t think so. In a typical consumer directed plan, there’s a relatively high deductible and then traditional PPO insurance comes into force. Almost any surgical procedure will blow through a patient’s deductible and put them squarely into the traditional insurance arena, at which point the patient isn’t spending his own money.

It’s a good idea to educate patients about surgery; when patients know more about various options they may choose less aggressive paths. And there are services that can help patients make informed choices, without simply trying to scare them off. One such service is called EMMI, and is offered by Rightfield Solutions. Rightfield focuses on informing patients about their surgery through simple, interactive graphics and text without the gore. The company’s value proposition is a little different; it works to simultaneously improve patient satisfaction and to reduce malpractice risk by setting realistic expectations and documenting that those expectations were set.

Meanwhile, it won’t be long before the makers of the gory surgery videos start making videos of the side effects of expensive drugs. Stay tuned for videos of patients vomiting, having diarrhea, heart attacks, and episodes of psychosis.

3 thoughts on “Over the top”

  1.  
    David:

    Excellent post (I linked to it earlier today). And you hit the nail on the head in two ways:

    First, the article does mischaracterize the fundamental benefit of CHDC; i.e. empowering and enabling the patient to better manage his own health care.

    Second, I find it abominable that a carrier would choose to go this route: if they don’t agree with the philosophy of CDHC, then why market HDHP’s in the first place? Something about eating cake…

    Thanx for a great post, and have a terrific weekend!

  2. Yes, fascinating. Interesting to compare the UK experience where surgery (indeed all health care) has notionally been free at the point of entry into the system. In fact, we ration health care by waiting lists, you do it by costs.

    More and more people in the UK are now taking out private health insurance to circumvent waiting lists. The UK insurance companies are now banding together to force UK private hospitals and doctors to reduce prices. But we have not yet seen Scary Movies of hospital procedures used to frighten the punter away.

    Are you serious?

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