Healthcare spending has been increasing, but it is easy to see that we have a finite set of healthcare resources available to everyone. We only have so many hospitals, there are only so many doctors available, and our healthcare plans are all tied together so if one person uses a high amount of healthcare, everyone paying into the health plan will see their costs rise. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to make sure we are getting the best care possible with our healthcare dollars, why it is so important that we ensure that everyone gets the right treatment at the right time.
As Dave Chase writes in The Opioid Crisis Wake-Up Call, “A senior executive at a Fortune 10 company wisely told me that misdiagnosis is the biggest healthcare error; everything that follows both harms the patient and costs you.”
If we don’t get the diagnosis piece right for patients, then they get the wrong care. They take medications that don’t help them, undergo procedures that don’t address the correct issue, and eventually return for more evaluation and diagnostic testing. The patient can be harmed by drug side-effects, by surgeries that were never needed, and by exposure to radiation from diagnostic imaging.
Getting the diagnosis wrong also wastes a huge amount of our finite healthcare resources. Each new appointment to try to get the diagnosis right, to do more testing and screening, or to try a new procedure leads to increased costs for the individual and everyone else. Doctor’s offices have to fit in more appointments, patients have to fill more prescriptions to try new medications, and operating rooms are booked for the wrong procedures. Individuals and patients are delayed and have to pay more for their services.
It is important that we focus on making sure we get the correct diagnosis at the beginning. I’m not a physician, and I haven’t spent years connected to the healthcare system to tell you exactly where the breakdown is in finding the right diagnosis, but the costs of patient health and healthcare resources make it clear that we should invest in diagnostic capabilities. We don’t need to spot every little thing in the patient’s body, but we do need good enough diagnostics and enough knowledge and understanding to get the right diagnosis the first time, for the good of our bank accounts, and more importantly for the good of our collective health.