Health care costs are rising at a dizzying pace. For most Americans, this translates into increasing health insurance premiums, which are driven mostly by the cost of health care. Getting health care costs under control is a necessary step, and one that politicians generally say is important. But what is said and what is done are not always in line with each other. This outstanding article on Emergency Physicians Monthly is a perfect example of health care costs run amok.
The article speaks for itself and doesn’t need much in the way of elaboration. Spending $700 million to identify a problem that occurs 5 times per year in emergency departments doesn’t seem like good use of health care dollars. And even if emergency care providers could successfully identify all five of the patients who would otherwise have committed suicide in the ED, there’s no guarantee that the treatment provided to those patients will prevent them from taking their lives after they are released from care.
But in addition to all of the excellent points in the article, my skeptical side has to wonder if there is an additional motivation behind the proposal by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO). One of the many recommendations they made is that health care providers should be “…screening all patients for depression when they’re admitted to a hospital…” Of course the vast majority of people who are diagnosed with depression are not suicidal. But a good number of them do go on to become customers for the pharmaceutical industry, which has a vast lobbying influence. I wonder how many new customers the pharmaceutical industry might stand to gain if hospital staff have to screen every patient for depression.