Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Truly Alternative Medicine

A recent story on doctors using Google search as part of their practice has caused a ripple of controversy. The implied suggestion of possible incompetence hanging over the whole process, i.e "should'nt my doctor know what's wrong with me without having to check on a search engine. Hell, I can do that myself."

A study conducted in Australia approved of the practice in difficult cases:

Using 26 difficult diagnostic cases published in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors from Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital Googled three to five symptoms from each case
There was indeed a signifigant improvement in diagnosis using the search engine.

The controversy seems needless considering the larger trends that have been occurring in Western Medical Practice.

The 2 trillion dollar U.S Health industry is increasingly forcing financially overburdened Americans to seek other avenues for their health procedures. The internet has opened their eyes to the possiblity of affordable health care in foreign destinations, India being a particular hot spot.

Consider the comparative prices and it seems inevitable that companies forced to foot the bill for their employees health care plans will turn to the foreign alternative:
Procedure U.S. Insurer's cost U.S. Retail price India Thailand Singapore

Angioplasty $25,704 to $37,128 $57,262 to $82,711 11000 13000 13000
Gastric bypass $27,717 to $40,035 $47,988 to $69,316 11000 15000 15000
Heart bypass $54,741 to $79,071 $122,424 to $176,835 10000 12000 20000 Heart-valve replacement (single) $71,401 to $103,136 $159,326 to $230,138 9500 10500 13000
Hip replacement $18,281 to $26,407 $43,780 to $63,238 9000 12000 12000 Hysterectomy $9,591 to $13,854 $20,416 to $29,489 2900 4500
Knee replacement $17,627 to $25,462 $40,640 to $58,702 8500 10000 13000 Mastectomy $9,774 to $14,118 $23,709 to $34,246 7500 9000 12400
Spinal fusion $25,302 to $36,547 $62,778 to $90,679 5500 7000 9000

The overall trend to outsourcing is not restricted to procedures and work that requires patients to actually physically travel to other locales.

A New England Journal of Medicine article observed the increasing practice of outsourcing diagnostic radiology work to India, threatening in a very real way the luxuriant incomes that these professionals have enjoyed. Predictably protective alarm bells are being sounded by members of the profession but as the article seems to suggest the process will take place far more quickly than has been supposed.

More interesting is how Intensive Care Practice is also falling under the purvey of distant surveillance thanks to the comprehsive communication of all physiological data over digital pathways.

The practice of Medicine beneath the veneer of disinterested vocation remains a business. Increasingly it is also appears to be becoming subject to the tidal shift in international economics as a consequence of Globlalisation.

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