This and That

April 22, 2016

By Shannon Brownlee

We had a fantastic Lown Conference in Chicago last weekend. Watch for video clips of speakers and panels on this website. Until then, watch these clips from the meeting created for us by a skilled videographer.

Warren Buffett has a saying about high-stakes poker: If you haven’t figured out who the patsy is at the table within 30 minutes, it’s you.  Hospitalist Brad Flansbaum figured out he was the patsy at a training event sponsored by a pharmaceutical company. Writing in a blog for the Society of Hospital Medicine, Flansbaum says he thought he was there to teach drug reps a bit about the uses of antibiotics. Then he watched a training exercise involving reps playing the role of themselves and an ICU doctor. Their job was to learn how to persuade the resistant physician that the company’s new “me-too” antibiotic was superior to older (and cheaper) medications. Flansbaum job was to help the reps learn how to get a doctor to yes. “It was all about closing the deal,” he writes. He quit being a Pharma consultant.

In his blog, Flansbaum wonders if we should quit using the word “honorarium” as a euphemism for getting paid by drug companies to speak or consult. Maybe it’s not so euphemistic: the term comes from Latin for honor and donation, and according to one online etymology dictionary, the original meaning was “a bribe to get appointed to an honorary post.”

And while we’re on the topic of the meaning of health care terms, why is the money we pay hospitals and doctors called “reimbursement?” Last time I looked, reimbursement meant compensation for an expense incurred. Do we reimburse grocery stores when we buy food? Do we reimburse teachers when our kids learn to read?

Sympathies for John Stossel, bulldog consumer reporter for Fox News and champion of a free market, who reports that he has lung cancer. His take on his care at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in Manhattan: “My medical care is excellent but the customer service stinks.”  And he know why: “Customer service is sclerotic because hospitals are largely socialist bureaucracies. “

That’s interesting. Then how come the Commonwealth Fund’s report on the quality of care around the world gives the UK, which has the most socialized system on the planet, the highest marks for quality, access, and efficiency?