more to come on health care

I apologize for being offline for the past month. Between illnesses, weddings, and the start of the school year, I cut back on blogging and twitter. I finally feel like I’m back into the swing of things.

I am looking forward to the Virginia Health Equity Conference later this week. Although the conference will mainly be attended by medicine and public health people, I hope to blog about health care during the conference. So keep an eye on the blog.  You can follow the conference twitter feed here.

I have been closely following the national debate surrounding health care and health insurance. Although it seems like the issue is mainly a macro-economics issue, I really do think that OR has a lot to offer, particularly in predicting the costs and benefits of treatment and care. But I see so much misinformation (sometimes well-meaning people with the wrong information, and sometimes more sinister ulterior motives) that I easily get discouraged about having a rational, quantitative discussion using OR methodologies.

Last week, I tried discussing some of the health care issues in my class (probability and statistics for engineers). After introducing Bayes rule, I illustrated why it implies that preventive medicine costs so much, in general. I think the discussion backfired. David Brooks explains it better [podcast link here]–when I try, I come off sounding like a an insensitive monster that wants to deny people health care. Really, I just want good numbers to support the debate so we can make good decisions. I’m not sure what the answer is, because I have no idea what the facts are yet. I hope OR is instrumental in providing the facts.

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One response to “more to come on health care

  • Bernoulli-Blogger

    Hi Laura
    We are completely on the same page. I hear lots of rhetoric to support one’s outcome, but not solid numbers to back it up. I wish we could come up with an agreed statement of the problem and then make a large Ishikawa diagram to track the root causes of the problem. Then we could examine the changes required to address the root problems or at least understand which problems are at least solvable. I think one of the biggest costs in health care is the crazy billing system. Insurance companies can lower premium cost when their costs are predictable. The health care billing system seems to be one of the most unpredictable systems on the planet. I think OR could help with designing a system that brings predictability to the majority of the costs. I think before we focus on expanding the availability of health care to those who make little money, we need to figure out ways to keep the current costs in check and strategies to lower those costs. Once we have a working strategy to keep costs in check for those who currently earn in the average group, we can use OR to determine how the strategy can scale to wider groups and what changes would be required to support that expansion of the health care system.

    >I come off sounding like a an insensitive monster that wants to deny people health care.
    That is a sad part about the debate. No one wants to deny anyone the opportunity to improve their life. But history has shown us that there are limits to resources. Where there are limits, there is someone who can not get everything they want. I think of the following quote often in this debate, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” (Philip K. Dick http://deoxy.org/pkd_how2build.htm)

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