Tuesday, December 31, 2013
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.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.
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.
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!
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
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.