Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why is Healthcare So Expensive?

Healthcare reform has been in the news for years now – and long before the Affordable Care Act, it was an issue that returned every few years, and with good reason. The cost of healthcare has continued to increase faster than inflation, meaning that it is objectively growing more expensive for individuals to acquire medical care. Meanwhile, we aren’t getting any younger, and more and more people are requiring that increasingly expensive healthcare. Consequently, many people are wondering why it is so expensive to go to the hospital or see your doctor or receive basic medical treatment, and a lot of finger-pointing has resulted.
Healthcare Costs Are Rising Faster Than Your Income
by Simplee.
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The Easy and Incorrect Answer Most people like to blame doctors. They make so much money, goes the thinking, and a lot of that must come from overcharging their patients. This has turned doctors into the bad guys of the industry, but the truth is that these accusations are inaccurate, and made by individuals who know little of how the medical industry actually works. The truth is that doctors are yet another victim of how medicine is practiced in America today. A large part of a doctor’s salary goes towards insurance – in some cases, 60% or more will go towards insurance payments. Many doctors are sued on a yearly basis, with the overwhelming majority of those lawsuits thrown out of court the second they arrive. Still, lawyering up for a malpractice battle can initially cost a fair amount of money, and so it is important for a doctor to have the insurance to cover that. Because of the common need for the insurance to be used, insurers have jacked the cost of that insurance up. Those costs, then, are passed on to you.
Going Up the Food Chain… and Still Wrong Even then, however, the salaries that doctors are collecting – most of which, again, is going to insurers – is but a pittance compared to what the hospital is receiving. Doctors make as little as 1/10th of what the hospital makes from a single procedure, operation, or visit to the ER. For-profit hospitals are obviously bundling this money into, well, profit, but what are other hospitals doing with all of this money? Some like to accuse hospital administrators of accepting fat paychecks; another claim is that even not-for-profit hospitals are actually making quite a bit of money. Given the doctor’s discretion as far as the medication and procedures ordered, it would, at first, seem as though doctors are responsible for the skyrocketing price of a visit to the hospital, but as doctors see little of the money that is being spent on these procedures, it is unlikely that they are ordering these medical procedures purely out of a desire for money. A Big Problem With an Easy Solution The truth is that a lot of the money that goes into a hospital is spent on medical supplies and equipment. If you want state-of-the-art medical treatment, it begins with a highly-trained doctor and medical staff, but ultimately, none of that can do much for you without the tools and technology that makes modern medicine what it is. Much of the high cost of medical care in America today can be traced back to hospitals investing in the tools and technology that is used to save lives every day. Sadly, these supplies are growing more expensive every year, driving up the cost to use and replace it. Thankfully, there is a way to deal with the problem of increasing healthcare costs – actually, there are many solutions, but a simple one that any hospital can adopt is to seek to seek out and buy from more affordable suppliers. Affordable in this case does not necessarily mean “cheap” or ineffective; medical supplies are held to an industry standard that must be met in order to be sold on the open market. There are, however, ways to reduce costs, either through buying wholesale or through working with suppliers whose own suppliers are more affordable. As in any market, finding resources that offer a competitive advantage over your rivals is a pathway to market success. Hospitals only need to realize that they have options when it comes to whom they buy their medical supplies from and what the cost of those supplies is. Many of the problems that Americans face today in the field of medicine could be solved with frugal, intelligent spending.

The Medical World Gets Wired

The web continues to transform how commerce is conducted not just in this country, but also around the world. Times have certainly changed, and retailers are racing to catch up to the e-commerce giants that are dominating their respective markets. Whether it’s online advertising, social media, or just conducting sales and purchases through the web, it has become absolutely essential for businesses to do business online. Not only is a wider client base available over the web, but you can also often get better prices for the products you are buying by shopping around and comparing the prices of various competitors. This increased consumer access to one’s rivals has resulted in a number of price wars that have driven down the costs of products. Few industries have been spared from this lowering of prices, and that includes medical supplies. Once upon a time, medical supplies were purchased locally by hospitals, clinics, and other medical organizations. They knew their suppliers well, had relationships based on years of business, and generally, these were productive partnerships.
 E-commerce Sales & History Of Online Shopping
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Increasing Costs Mean Increasing Savings However, the increasing cost of medical supplies has driven the cost of healthcare up considerably. As consumers struggle to pay for their healthcare, hospitals are looking to reduce their own costs in order to remain at least somewhat affordable for patients – after all, if the patient can’t pay their bill, the hospital is simply out of that money, not to mention the money they spent to try and get the patient to pay up! As a result of these efforts, medical organizations have increasingly looked beyond their local suppliers to online medical supplies companies that can provide competitive prices. The world of online medical supplies has exploded in recent years. There are a number of businesses getting into the field, trying to help doctors save on their medical supplies expenses in a big way. As medical supplies tends to be one of the biggest contributors to the cost of “business” in healthcare, lower prices for these medical supplies is quite attractive for the cash-strapped doctors and hospitals looking into these alternative suppliers!
More Time to Heal & Cure Another benefit of shopping online for medical supplies is the amount of time saved by the healthcare professionals doing the shopping. For people whose job is to save lives, cure disease, and heal the injured, it can be frustrating to spend a majority of your time on the procurement of supplies from a local supplier. This process can involve going to the supplier’s headquarters, negotiating with the salespeople there, and generally spending a lot of time on getting your supplies. Online shopping for medical supplies is, on the other hand, just as quick-and-easy as online shopping for a Christmas gift or office supplies. That is to say, it will save considerable time and effort on the part of the medical professionals in charge of ordering more medical supplies, freeing them up to take care of more pressing matters – like their patients! So long as the supplier’s website is competently designed and easily navigated, supplies can be quickly located, purchased, and delivered with no hassle whatsoever. A Method to the Madness You may be wondering how it is that suppliers can manage to save so much time for the doctors and physicians who buy from them; after all, aren’t they just middle men? This is correct; online suppliers rarely, if ever, actually produce their own medical supplies. Instead, they act as exchange hubs where physicians can purchase a whole assortment of medical supplies from a variety of different manufacturers. This is the strength of online suppliers, however. By buying from multiple manufacturers, online suppliers can get the best price for each kind of medical tool and piece of equipment it offers. The medical professionals who visit the medical supplier’s website then have access to the best possible price for each piece of medical equipment that they are interested in. This is the wave of the future for the medical industry; just as medical records are moving online, so too must the acquisition of medical supplies move online. The only question is, who offers the best price, the best shopping experience, and the best customer support? If you compare MPM Medical Supplies to its competitors, you will quickly find that they top every category.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Brief History of Surgery and Surgical Instruments

Long before there were humans, there was illness and injury, and long after we’re gone, illness and injury will persist wherever there is life. Yet archaeological evidence has shown that we have combatted these ills as best we could, given the knowledge we had, for millennia. As far back as the Stone Age, surgical procedures were performed in order to alleviate pain and illness. You might be surprised by how long our earliest medical practices persisted before science transformed the way medicine is practiced today.

Yet as medicine and surgery has evolved, one thing has remained common: proper surgery, the kind that helps and heals, cannot be performed without the right tools. A good surgeon is important, of course, but without the right tools for the job a surgeon can actually cause more harm than good – as has happened again and again throughout history, until recent advancements in surgical techniques. Of course, by ‘recent’ we mean developments in the last 150 years. None of those discoveries in surgical technique could have been possible without the earliest surgeons working to heal others, however.

Ancient Surgery: I Need Surgery Like a Hole in the Head

As far back as the Stone Age, our ancestors practiced trepanation. Trepanation is the practice of cutting open a hole in the skull in order to alleviate pressure on the brain. Blood and/or swelling in the brain can cause massive amounts of pain and even serious and lasting injury. This kind of swelling could be the result of any number of injuries or illnesses, but it is most often a blow to the head that would cause the need for trepanation. Surprisingly, evidence – i.e., the unearthed bodies of ancient man – has shown that some people even survived this procedure, as the bone grew back over the hole in the skull.

The Egyptians displayed detailed knowledge of human anatomy and surgical techniques for the time. You are probably familiar with the mummified remains their civilization left behind; in order to embalm those bodies, principal organs were removed and preserved using embalming tools, such as a three-inch stick used to remove the brain. Probes, saws, forceps, scalpels, and surgical scissors also saw use in the embalming process, as well as in normal surgical procedures.

That’s right, the Egyptians also had some knowledge of how to treat the human body before it died – revolutionary! Clamps, sutures, and cauterization techniques were commonly used, as was honey and willow bark – natural antiseptics. Similarly, the ancient Greeks used wine to bathe wounds, as the alcohol acted to prevent infection.

While the dissection of human bodies was outlawed in ancient Rome, there were nevertheless several surgical instruments developed that continue to be used today, such as the vaginal speculum, which Greek and Roman gynecologists and obstetricians used to diagnose and treat vaginal and uterine disorders. There are records of rectal speculums used in ancient Rome as well, with Hippocrates writing of “… laying the patient on his back and examining the ulcerated part of the bowel by means of the rectal speculum.”

Medieval Surgery: Just How It Sounds

While much of the middle ages saw basic surgery performed by barber-surgeons, who also acted as dentists, the 16th century saw a revolution in surgery as knowledge of anatomy became more advanced, specifically with the publishing of The Fabric of the Human body in 1543 by Andreas Vesalius. With humanity’s improved knowledge of anatomy, surgical techniques advanced considerably.

Subsequently, the development of substantively functional surgical tools became paramount. A flurry of surgical inventions were invented in the following centuries, such as development of sutures and ligatures to stop bleeding, as developed by Ambroise Paré. The discovery of microbes as responsible for infection and disease by Louis Pasteur also led to more sanitary surgical practices throughout the medical world as doctors were encouraged to wash their hands between patients.

Modern Surgery: Oldies But Goodies

Subsequently, Joseph Lister (after whom Listerine is named!) developed carbolic acid as a cleansing and disinfecting agent used to reduce infection by treating instruments and other objects that make contact with the patient. Ernst von Bergmann’s steam sterilization for instruments was a later improvement on this revolution in surgical cleanliness. In the 19th century, methods of anesthesia were developed – such as the discovery of ether – which have helped patients around the world. Meanwhile, surgical instruments themselves continued to evolve, with the advent of more delicate and precise tools like the needle holder.

Today, surgical tools are incredibly advanced, with a range of computerized and robotic tools aiding the surgeon. However, some of the oldest tools at the surgeon’s disposal – the scalpel, the forceps, and so on – continue to be used by surgeons today. As surgical technology continues to evolve and advance, there’s no telling what changes we will see, but one thing is for certain: none of these advances were possible without ancient surgeons laying the groundwork, making mistakes, learning, passing on their expertise to others, and developing new tools to help them solve the surgical problems of their time.