Imagine the following headline:
War in Iraq a growing success: 20,000 Americans now dead!
If a newspaper ran that headline, we would all be outraged, and rightly so. Deaths in war are a tragedy. They are not something we celebrate.
Then why do we hear hospitals boasting about the number of bypass operations performed every year, number of heart catheterizations performed, number of heart attacks treated?
“_______ Hospital breaks 1000-heart bypass per year milestone”
“We treat more heart attacks than other other hospital in the state!”
“More people come to ________ Hospital than any other in the region!”
I hear this stuff on the radio, on TV, see it in newspapers and magazines, even on highway billboards every single day in Milwaukee.
Heart procedures, like deaths in war, are casualties of health.
They are not successes (though, of course, you can have a “successful” bypass). I see most procedures as a failure of prevention.
Death from heart attack is a failure of prevention. Tim Russert’s death was a (unnecessary) failure of prevention. But so are bypass surgery, stents, and the like.
Such is the perverse state of affairs in hospitals and health: They celebrate illness. They glamorize it with ads displaying high-tech equipment, efficient staff in scrubs, “caring and friendly staff.” But it is illness they are celebrating. Why? Because it has become a business necessity, a necessary strategy to remain competitive and profitable in the business called “healthcare” that makes money from treating people. The biggest return is from major procedures like bypass operations.
Every success in prevention denies the hospital an $80,000+ opportunity. You’ll never hear that advertised.
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