Tuesday, May 26, 2009

X Prize in Healthcare

This is obviously a great idea: A $10 million prize for designing a better healthcare system. Thumbing through the website, this stuck out:

Consumer(1) engagement: Consumers must opt-in to any programs the teams offer. The assignment of people to a team makes high rates of participation a requirement for success.
And there's the rub: People do things that are harmful to themselves. And, just as infuriatingly, people irrationally do other things with no demonstrable benefit in hopes of protecting themselves. An X Team can tell people not to smoke, for example, but who hasn't heard that before? In fact, is there anyone in America who smokes but hasn't heard, at least a million times, that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bladder cancer, hastens heart disease, etc, etc, etc? Or food: who would choose hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis over health? Everyone who eats beef more often than once a week, it turns out, and probably everyone who eats McDonald's more than once a month.

But on the other end of the spectrum are those who obsess over organic produce, ear candling, full body CT scans, executive physicals, and the like, who waste just as much effort from an overtaxed cohort of physicians, nurses, hospitals, and fellow insurance purchasers as the souls who indirectly choose tobacco, fat, and salt over health.

1. Healthcare is not a commodity for consumption. Medical care is the energy, skill, and literally care a physician or nurse uses to lighten the load carried by a patient, a sufferer, a fellow human being who bears a burden.

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