Here’s something to be thankful for: the best health-care system on the planet. It’s imperiled and so you might have fewer medical blessings to count in coming years.
This doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. We must bring down costs and make sure that the benefits of the system are available to all citizens. The bills before Congress now won’t do the former. They may well be less effective with the latter than we are led to believe. So now a few good words about American health care:
We have deciphered the genome and developed dialysis, bone-marrow transplantation and catheter-based cardiac interventions. Our population can get advanced imaging studies or virtually any laboratory test performed promptly and reliably. A simple call to 911 provides instant access to a remarkable countrywide system of emergency care. We have many reasons to be proud, and I am disappointed in my colleagues who are too modest to defend vociferously what is good in our system.
The 2002 Institute of Medicine report (which actually estimated not 90,000, but between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths per year attributable to medical error) is old hat. We have long since internalized its message and taken it to the floors of hospitals to improve care at the bedside. We work hard to surpass standards and reach error rates below 1 in 100,000.
Our medicine is not static. But amid all the turbulence, let us pause and give thanks for the bedrock of American medicine that is the envy of all the world.