The discussion of the problems with our health care system and reform sometimes brings out the best in us and sometimes the worst. ProPublica is a web site which provides “an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest” according to its owners. The site is run by journalists with very respectable credentials and a forum is provided for commenting on articles.
ProPublica has posted an article by Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein, and Marshall Allen discussing health care errors: “Why Can’t Medicine Seem to Fix Simple Mistakes?” There were a long list of reader responses, and I couldn’t help but add my two cents, especially when I found some writers blaming all medical mistakes on arrogant doctors. On the other hand, many of the writers provided very good narratives of their own experiences in dealing with medical errors and working in health care facilities with programs to prevent medical mistakes.
Shortly after dueling with one of the posters on this site, I found an excellent post of Dr. Kevin Pho’s site about the public’s disinclination to deal with complexity, certainly a component of medical error discussed in the article on the ProPublica site. On the KevinMD.com site, Dr. Alex Lickerman wrote about the need to search for more than one simple solution to complex problems: “Take the Time to Educate Yourself Before Forming an Opinion.”
So much of the ranting that goes on in forums appears to arise from someone’s need to insist they have all the answers and everyone else’s perspective is wrong. Would that such ranting posts would automatically default to Dr. Lickerman’s article!
Political leaders are pushing simple solutions to complex problems, never mind whether they will work or not, because voters are lead by the media to think simplistically about complex problems. The sound bite isn’t called a sound bite because the information provided is good investigative journalism. Indeed, as ProPublica will tell visitors to their site, the days of good investigative journalism by respected newspapers is about as much a thing of the past as Dr. Marcus Welby is to medicine.
Our problems with health care are incredibly complex and no simple solution will solve the many problems with health care, whether discussing medical error, the uninsured, access to preventive care, rationed health care, or health care’s loss of the treating physician to corporate medicine.
Our health care problems will not be solved by sound-bite thinking. Only the voters can require their legislative representatives to deal with the complexity of health care problems. As Dr. Lickerman suggests, we all seem too easily satisfied by the easy catch phrases fed to us by politicians than digging deeply enough into complex problems such as health care to find workable solutions for all.