Blog | Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Money and a model

Two great stories in the New York Times deserve comment here.

"Health Care and Pursuit of Profit Make a Poor Mix" appeared on the business page. It could have appeared in the paper's health coverage. Or on its front or editorial pages.

Examples abound: For-profit nursing homes used sedatives on elders at four times the rate of non-profit homes. It's much less expensive to sedate people than it is to give "... special attention to more active patients who need to be kept busy."

The article raises "... a broader, more important question: How much should we rely on the private sector to satisfy broad social needs?"

"As Nurse Lay Dying, Offering Herself as Instruction in Caring" appeared on the front page on Jan. 10. The story is about a nurse named Martha Keochareon, who at age 59, with terminal pancreatic cancer, enrolled in hospice. She called her alma mater, Holyoke Community College, and offered herself up as a "teaching" case to current nursing students. These soon-to-be nurses crossed the phobia boundary and provided first hand care to a dying person. Ms. Keochareon received the benefit of passing on her wisdom and gaining companionship in her final days.

It's a moving story to see someone so frail offer so much. She died Dec. 29.

Taken together, the two stories address fundamental questions we are all asking (whether consciously or not) about what kind of health care system we want and how we want to be treated when we're suffering or dying.

I'd love to hear your thoughts here.

This post by John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, originally appeared at GlassHospital. Dr. Schumann is a general internist. His blog, GlassHospital, seeks to bring transparency to medical practice and to improve the patient experience.