Melding Safety with Affordability in American Health Care

More and more doctors and patients are recognizing the link between affordability of medical care and safety. One problem that plagues fee-for-service medicine is that doctors are rewarded financially for ordering excessive tests and treatments, which are both dangerous and wasteful.

Geoff Berg, an internist in Rhode Island, put it this way in a letter to the editor in the New York Times:

“The problem with fee-for-service is not merely that it pays providers to provide service; it pays them to create service as well. It is this almost limitless ability of doctors to create service that makes our per capita health care costs twice that of any other developed country. If physicians were salaried employees with modest incentives for productivity and outcomes, we could, in very short order, have affordable health care for all.”

Electronic medical records, if properly used to communicate key information among doctors and with the patient, also could help cut wasteful and pain-inflicting treatments, as letter writer Margie Parko wrote in the Times about her mother-in-law’s experiences in the last 18 months of her life.

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