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Boise Hospital Director takes on health care ?myths'

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Boise Hospital Director Takes on Health Care Myths


By Gregory Hahn - Idaho Statesman

Edition Date: 04/04/07


If you think you know all about America's health care system — Ed Dahlberg wants you to think again.


The president and chief executive officer of the St. Luke's Health System hears myths and misconceptions about medical care all the time, he said.

In a speech Tuesday to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Dahlberg said people need to throw out the myths and gather all interested players to the table to tackle the mounting problems facing health care today — because the system won't last.


Medical costs already consume 17 percent of the gross national product, he said. More than 40 million Americans are uninsured.


"I've got bad news; it is not currently sustainable," Dahlberg said. "We have to find a different way of thinking. We have to face the music."


He outlined some of the common misperceptions — here are a few:


Myth: Costs rise because hospitals are expanding


Hospitals are expanding because the Treasure Valley is growing, Dahlberg said. He listed some of the top factors boosting costs instead: technology, prescription drugs, aging populations and more.


Myth: Medicine is an absolute science


Also not true, Dahlberg said. He showed some research from the Dartmouth Atlas, a nationwide study that compares how doctors in different regions treat various diseases.


Idaho doctors are more likely to perform knee replacement surgery than physicians in Hawaii, for example, but not as likely as those in Nebraska, which has the highest rate.


He showed the states with the highest number of back surgeries, cardiac catheters and other procedures, and those with the lowest.


The problem, he said: "We don't know which one of these columns is right."


Idaho, incidentally, was somewhere in the middle each time.


Myth: We can absolutely measure quality


In reality, some data is often two or more years old, he said. It is analyzed by people who can be more subjective than objective — and it's hard to measure the severity of illnesses.


For example, St. Luke's had three companies evaluate the same death rates in 2004, to see where the hospital stood among national averages. One company said the Boise hospital's track record was 18 percent better than average; another said 16 percent better; the third said 8 percent worse.


Myth: Health care has no return on investment


So health care costs consume more and more of the national dollar — what does that get? Dahlberg argued that it gets a lot.


He quoted a study of health outcomes over two decades for heart attack, diabetes, stroke and breast cancer. In the 20 years, the overall death rate dropped 16 percent. Life expectancy rose 3.9 years.


Disability rates for the elderly dropped by a quarter and people spend 56 percent fewer days in the hospital.


To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Gregory Hahn at ghahn@idahostatesman.com or 377-6425.





I thought some of you might like to read this---it sounds like at least one hospital administrator is conceding that there are problems with health care in America.


Well, there you have it---a peek into what is going on in at least one hospital administrator's mind. Maybe we will start to see some real reform in the health field.



PS---I think it's up to us to lobby for change---on a local, regional and national level.

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