Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stupid "News" Reporting

Lately there have been 'news' reports claiming that the economic stimulus bill contains provisions for a 'health czar' who will oversee doctors' treatment decisions and extend the long arm of the government into your doctor's office; who would decide what treatments are acceptable and not acceptable for payment. The claim is false -- the bill is referring to the expansion of electronic medical records to HELP guide medical decisions. Who could argue that care is improved when any provider within your health system can pull up your records instantly, whether you're in the ER, clinic or post-op recovery? Some organizations already do this quite handily.

I had the misfortune to see this scare story reported on CNN the other day, breathlessly announced by CNN Newsroom host Heidi Collins (who solemnly intoned the words "National Health Care") and poorest-excuse-for-a-medical-correspondent-ever Elizabeth Cohen. After discussing it in the vaguest terms for a minute or two, Ms. Cohen then admitted that she had looked at the language of the actual bill (I give her credit for that, wow, you go , journalist!) and lo and behold, it didn't exactly SAY what people were claiming. There was no language stating that the government would tell doctors what to do. So I'm thinking, just where is the story here? But far be it from CNN or any news organization to pass up hinting at a sensational revelation, if only to kind of back off it later.

But regardless of your political philosphy of any of this, what drives me nuts is that I have YET to hear ANYONE on these shows mention the fact that there is ALREADY someone who tells your doctor what to do! Every single damn day we pharmacists call doctors to tell them "Your patient can't have that drug, they have to use this one." "Your patient can only get 12 tablets per 30 days." "The insurance company won't pay for two tablets a day, only one." "Your insurance company needs a prior authorization, and that means THEY will decide if you really need this drug." And that's just the pharmacy side of things, never mind the doctor visit/treatment/lab test/ procedure part. I kept waiting for Ms. Collins and Ms. Cohen to mention this as an aside, but it never came. Whether it's true or not, is it actually NEWS that treatment decisions are made by 3rd party payors? Are these people just not aware of this? Have they never been to a doctor or a dentist? No, I think it just makes for a better story when people think some government bureaucrat is going to be sitting in the examining room with them, instead of a desk jockey from Blue Cross or Aetna.

I know, I know, --- I admit I was pretty naive about news reporting until well into adulthood. I thought these people must be smart and well-researched --- I mean, how could it be on TV if it didn't pass the smell test? I am convinced they are the true culprits when it comes to the continual dumbing down of America. Nothing new I guess, but this story in particular left me pounding my forehead on the TV.

Now, I must go and watch more coverage of the Octo-Mom.


Anonymous said...

For years, it was NPR and PBS. Although some of the sensationalism prevails, especially for story content, at least they let the affected parties speak, and some authorities on various topics get a chance to speak their 'piece', so that there is some limit on talking point summaries by the reporter. But, still, as a healthcare provider in the middle of the maelstrom, I occasionally gnash my teeth wondering why they have a physician representing the AMA speak to an issue that pharmacy is expert. I very rarely hear opinions from actual pharmacists. Jim Plagakis and others would have us be a little more forthright on this particular issue--but, just exactly does a pharmacist call on? It sounds as if our bargaining power is scattered or non-representational of the whole profession. Is this part of the endemic pharmacy-related problem, that we cannot dissociate ourselves from a product or manufacturing company? That we cannot say we haven't touched the smut in anything we do? Or, is it a credibility issue? Or, is it an issue that all medical professionals have to deal with; someone representing a public news source disseminating information to the uninformed in a way that is not fully accurate, truthful, or even might be ambiguous? Agree with the 'dumbing down' statement.

NY pharmacy intern said...

I'm thinking of going to med school and maybe doing family med/GP. If that happens, I plan to beat it into the office staff, if the pharmacy calls about something and I'm not with a patient, give them to me or take a message I'll return as soon as I'm out of the room. Though I hope alot of the calls I might get are about insurance problems and not drug interactions. I hate nothing more than getting office staff on the phone who think they know everything or docs who seem to think I can only talk to him/her through the office staff, just hand them the damn phone, it will go alot quicker without the chance for something getting lost in translation.