Monday, December 21, 2009

Atul Gawande - "Testing, Testing"

Regardless of which side of the health care debate you are on, surgeon and The New Yorker staff writer Atul Gawande thinks we may all have it wrong by picking a definitive position.

Instead, Gawande believes we should take a lesson from the dynamic changes that were introduced into farming one hundred years ago. At the time, agriculture—like the health care industry today—was an “indispensable but unmanageably costly sector [that] was strangling the country.”

Gawande argues that America only became great when it learned how to farm more efficiently, which decreased the cost of food and the amount of labor that went into its production. In turn, this freed up money and manpower to “support economic growth and development” in other economic sectors.

“We were . . . still a poor nation,” Gawande writes. “Only by improving the productivity of farming could we raise our standard of living and emerge as an industrial power.”

But the road to better food production was not a choice between left and right. Instead, experimenting and learning on the go—plus the dissemination of this information—led to a transformation that would not have been possible had partisan politics been at play.

Click here to read Gawande’s fascinating account of our agricultural revolution (with a side of health care talk thrown in).


Brian said...

Really great article - what a huge task ahead!

George Fulmore said...

I love the article, as I have loved his earlier stuff in The New Yorker. I think the piece is well-thought-out and adds real insight. Obviously, there is no quick, easy answer for reducing health care costs. Obviously, much of our health care system is a disorganized, inefficient mess. Having a huge corporation like HCA own hundreds of hospitals is an accident waiting to happen and close to an entity that is too big to let fail. In some areas of the country, doctors/hospitals bill Medicare for three times what other areas of the country bill...and for similar results! There is much to gain from standarization of practices, looking for effective outcomes, not just pay for services. I applaud the author for his excellent piece. I think all of his stuff should be mandatory reading for health-care-reform buffs. I've heard it is mandatory reading in the White House. The goal, along with ending arbitrary abuses by private insurance companies, is to slow/reduce the cost curve of our nation's health care costs. That CAN be done. This article is a fantastic basis for optimism in this area.