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Consumer-driven health care creates choices

Eric Murray " Voice of Your Hospital

It’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies have trained health care consumers to tell the doctor which drug to scribble on the prescription pad.

“Did you see that one commercial about that stuff that’s supposed to help this condition?” the patient asks in a way that really says, “Look doc, you better let me have that pill prescription or else I’ll go to another doc who’s seen the commercial and I’ll get her to let me have it.”

This buyer behavior, maniacally spawned by behemoth pharmaceutical companies, clearly has dangerous implications.

It takes the physician out of the driver’s seat and puts the patient in a position of control. (Believe it or not a trained physician probably knows more than we do when it comes to medications.)

But sometimes consumer driven health care is a positive thing. It has empowered us as consumers to investigate physicians, facilities, prices, quality and convenience.

We are looking deeper into hospital safety ratings and physician backgrounds, levels of care and scope of services. (It also creates nationwide demand for professional health care marketers like me to strategically manage this complicated marketing mix.)

In short, health care consumers discovered that there really are choices in health care options. We can choose various health care services offered in Denver, Steamboat, Frisco and Kremmling or we can fly across the country for treatment at a chosen facility. Health care overseas is also considered a viable option in some cases. Our free market system allows for these choices.

Freedom of choice also means responsibility. It is the physician’s role to make recommendations and it is our ultimate responsibility to make decisions. That includes where to obtain health care services.

These choices are personal but they can affect many. According to a Grand County Rural Health Network newsletter, “In 2004 more than 90 percent of persons requiring inpatient care received those services outside of the county,” which equates to, “a loss of net revenue between $1.8 – $2.5 million for services that could have been provided in [Grand] county.”

I’ve heard even higher estimates that include those inpatient statistics and add outpatient statistics of services already offered here. That figure more than doubles.

Retaining even a small fraction of that lost income could possibly launch new and improved local services and facilities.

Where we ultimately choose to have services completed also affects other businesses. Also according to the Grand County Rural Health Network newsletter, “. . . for every $1 generated in health care, an additional $0.33 is earned in the local economy.”

A decision to go elsewhere injects that income into that economy.

In Grand County there are an estimated 380 health care jobs. Our health care decisions also affect those people and their families. Again, with choice comes responsibility.

How do we responsibly enhance our power of decision making in health care? We can start by asking questions and thinking the answers through.

Just as many of us would ask our doctor about a medication we saw advertised on TV, we can slow the doctor’s roll as she begins to explain where she thinks we have to go for such and such and ask her another question.

“Wait a minute, doc,” you could ask, “Do any other health care facilities offer this service?”

If you have questions about the county’s hospital or its clinics in Granby and Kremmling or plans for the future of local health care call me at (970) 724-3165 or email me at ericmurray@kmhd.cc .

For more information about your locally available health care services or to investigate more about visiting specialty physicians from Steamboat and Denver visit http://www.kremmlinghospital.org.


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