The American Medical System is Nearing Collapse

At a recent MIT conference a white paper was presented that suggested the U.S. medical system was in a state of increasing failure. Even worse, the conclusion of the multi-disciplinary study group was that it was not fixable. Any hope would come from initiatives outside the current medical system. Tommy Thompson, the national leader of our healthcare system has recently concluded the same thing.

The only thing I would question is his conclusion that their is a malpractice crisis. With medical error the third leading cause of death in the U.S., one could conclude that there should be significantly more malpractice claims if patients were really aware of the number of medical errors inflicted upon them, and the number of institutions that cover them up.

The American Medical System is Nearing Collapse

By Tommy G. Thompson – U.S. Secretary of Health and Human services

We are living in the most amazing era of medicine in human history. Yet as we all know too well, all is not well with American medicine. In point of fact, we are dealing with a system of healthcare delivery that is, at its root, dysfunctional.

The problem – the crisis – is the system by which care is delivered, which has simply not matured at the same pace as the technologies and treatments now available.

I’ve traveled all over the country. I’ve traveled to Spain and Germany. I’ve been to Canada. I’ve discussed healthcare with some of the leading policymakers and caregivers in the world. And sadly, I have to report that in Western society broadly, the various systems of care are eroding with ever-greater rapidity.

I’ve come to one central conclusion: The way we provide care is in jeopardy of collapse. It is clouded by regulatory burdens that are confusing, duplicative and extremely time-consuming. Physicians and nurses almost have to obtain advanced degrees in business administration, accounting and jurisprudence just to run their offices from day to day. Patients have to fill out endless forms; get transferred from place to place; worry about what insurance will pay for what treatment and at what cost.

We have to fundamentally change the current healthcare delivery system in our country. The myriad rules, regulations and restrictions that make obtaining good healthcare difficult, if not impossible, have to be reviewed carefully and, when necessary, jettisoned like useless ballast.

But there’s another area of reform that must – I repeat, must – be among the highest priorities we can develop: malpractice reform. America is experiencing a medical malpractice insurance coverage crisis that is increasing the cost of healthcare, decreasing access to doctors and hospitals for many patients and lowering the overall quality of care provided to patients.

Tommy G. Thompson is U.S. secretary of health and human services. This is excerpted and condensed from his remarks July 18 in Chicago to the American Medical Association

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