Friday, December 19, 2008

MRIs as screening tools

I have really come to enjoy the world of blogs! I was doing a little catch-up reading today of several that I enjoy, and I found a disturbing bit of news on one of my favorites, This show was aired on 11/17. I don't watch the Today Show, as I tend to get my news online and on NPR, and somehow I missed this story.

Briefly, it appears that there is a push to use MRIs as a screening tool for brain tumors. As the Country Doc points out in his excellent discussion, there are no data supporting this type of use of MRIs. I'm just appalled at the Today Show for airing such a piece! I realize that the mobile MRI traveling around NYC was only charging $169, but that is not a realistic price, just like no-money down house financing...

Our health care system is in shambles; we outspend every other country in the world, yet we have worse outcomes than most 1st-world nations. It seems that finally we may get universal health care, but if it is going to work, we need to make some difficult choices. Fortunately, we have established a few evidence-based guidelines we can use to help make decisions, but we need to use them. There are also studies from foreign countries we can use to help guide us. Please don't get me wrong, I am grateful to live in one of the most scientifically innovative and creative societies! And I do worry that if/when we cut health care spending, some of it will come out of research funding. However, we need to take responsibility and use our limited funds wisely. Perhaps if we place more emphasis on preventive care, we'll avoid some of the huge costs of preventable diseases. I know I'm not saying anything remotely new, but I feel strongly that our American mindset needs to change; in other words, we may not be able to save every life regardless of cost, we may not be able to give every single citizen access to the newest, most expensive, and not necessarily the best drugs! As a medical provider, I share in this responsibility, and it is a heavy burden. I went into the medical field because I like to fix things, make people better, but I too need to accept that there are limits.


Joel Sherman said...

All this is a function of our profit motivated health system, or rather lack of a system. We permit insurance companies to make billions of dollars off health insurance while millions go with no or inadequate health coverage.
I'm not advocating socialism in general, but it makes no sense to permit profit motives to determine and limit vital services. That's what government should be for. We'll see how well Obama does.

Alex said...

I agree. It'll be interesting to see if Obama can start the change necessary.