Disease for profit

Disease for profit

Last week, I recorded a short testimonial why I would like to become surgeon. Why it sometimes frustrates me to work in the health care sector. Why it would be time to change this slightly sick system. The video was made by young talent Mea Dols de Jong and published by VPRO Tegenlicht.

However, it was in Dutch. And as I can imagine, our language is only spoken by a few wandering around. Therefore, the full text in English underneath.

What I would like to become when I grow up? Somewhere between the moment that our general practitioner gave me a pair of tweezers and that one night I got to assist in a big operation, I choose that I would like to become a surgeon. Why? Because when I put on scrubs, I feel a bit like a kid that is going to bed the night before his birthday.

However, sometimes nowadays, I am lost. I get the feeling that I choose a utopic dream: a craft that no longer exists. Sometimes, it is truly frustrating to be a young doctor. When politicians are debating the millions being spent on health care while I am running on my old clogs towards a telephone to answer my pager. Or when a pharmaceutical company is presenting its yearly revenues from an expensive terrace in St Tropez while I have been trying to arrange a bed in another hospital for 7-year old boy with acute appendicitis because all our beds are taken. Sometimes, it feels as if our society has drifted far away from the original purpose of health care.pager

Health should play a key role in our lives. However, the health care sector seems to have adapted a profit model based on disease. Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and even hospitals benefit from an increasing number of patients. If more people are sick, more money is being made.

If disease is the incentive for profit, how do we create a cost model for health? An example. A man visits his general practitioner. He his blood pressure is increased. He smokes cigarettes and is slightly obese. Any doctor who would take the time to design a long-term lifestyle plan, would be a thieve of his own wallet. We are nudged to prescribe a pill: quick and profitable.

This problem already starts at the base of our health care system: research. It is almost impossible to investigate the benefits of doing less instead of doing more. A pharmaceutical company does not gain profit from prescribing less.

This consumerism is deeply rooted in our health care system. Both doctors and patients have good intentions, I don’t doubt that for a second. But the current costs of health care in The Netherlands, about 96 billion euro, are largely spent on pharmaceutical companies and real estate partners. But they are also not the only ones to blame, they just profit from a system in which disease is the model for profit.

Our system is sick. Its condition is so critical that we are only busy resuscitating rather than taking a step back to investigate the true cause. If a profit model for disease persists, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies will stay in the lead. Doctors and other even patients will remain marionettes in this game.

I would like to become surgeon. A good surgeon knows when she should cut but even more so, when not to cut. It is time for us all, politicians, health care companies and all others to change for the better. Because in the end, it is your health that matters most.

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