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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Reforming Health Care from Inside (Part I)

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At times, it seems like the American health care industry is irreparably broken. The cost of care is skyrocketing, and access to treatment is becoming more and more difficult. At every turn, the focus of the system appears to be anyplace but where it ought to be: the patient. A recent article in the New York Times highlights an admirable group of doctors who are trying to change that.

Under the current system, doctors are frequently compensated based on the number of patients they see. This method of payment is referred to as "capitation," and more patients seen equals more money earned for the provider. But what is the cost to the patient?

While the financial cost is significant, the cost to one’s health is arguably more pernicious. The modern trend of fifteen-minute office visits and referrals to several specialists can have unexpected and even dangerous results. In many cases, doctors are expected to assess and treat patients based on only a partial picture of the individual’s condition. As a result, a diagnosis may get missed or a dangerous drug combination may be prescribed.

In the end, it is the patient who bears the physical and psychological burden of inadequate treatment. If longer appointments or fewer referrals are necessary to ensure a person’s well-being, doctors should be willing to oblige.