Sunday, July 15, 2007

Setup For Failure

One of my co-workers who had a reputation for being incredibly hardworking and resourceful had suddenly started to slack off. At first it was showing up a couple of hours late in the morning or disappearing at the lunch hour and not coming back until much later in the evening. Later, emails would remain unanswered for days and he looked spaced out in meetings. He made up for lost time by working weekends and looked sleep deprived all week. Our manager grew concerned about him and asked some us who knew him well if there was anything she could do to help.

It turned out that his wife had not been well for a few months now. Even after consulting an army of specialists and getting a battery of lab work done no clear prognosis had emerged. They were fast running out of time and money. Her condition was steadily deteriorating. When they were not in a doctor's office, they were on the phone with the insurance company to figure out how much they would have to pay out of pocket. The bills for prescription medications was mounting by the day. Their parents in India were urging them to bring her home for treatment.

So they finally gave up and went home. The doctors at Apollo Hospital were able to figure out what was wrong with her fairly quickly and in a couple of months she had recovered from what had seemed like a terminal illness. The locals were very impressed when they heard. Many wished they could have done the same instead of struggling to pay medical bills. What Rajan and his wife had gone through is commonplace in America. Everyone agrees healthcare reform is desperately needed but
viable alternatives to the current system seem hard to come by.

Unlike the western world, India does not have any real "system" as far as national healthcare. Despite that, a few things work to the advantage of both patient and doctor. Mistakes by doctors are rife but suing is not. Prescription medication is very affordable even for the middle class. If you have the money, you have immediate access to world class facilities.

Good doctors are able to diagnose with confidence and accuracy so a lot of expensive lab-work is avoided. Finally there is the reputation factor. In India, a good doctor or a surgeon is household name in their city or state. Everyone can attest to their credentials. You go in with complete faith in their ability to cure you and faith is possibly the biggest part of the healing process.

When Rajan and his wife went to Apollo Hospital, they already knew doctors who were going to see her had a terrific track record and reputation. Half the battle was won even before the clinical process had begun. Back in the States, they had to pick a physician from a directory provided by the insurance company. He or she was just a name and that is not likely to inspire much confidence in someone who is seriously ill. Each time a test was ordered, they wondered if the doctor knew what she was doing and it eroded what little confidence they had to begin with. The process is perfectly set up for failure and it did so spectacularly.


Sofi said...

thats actually both shocking and alarming.

Anonymous said...

Terrific piece !!! So true.


cheti said...


Good one. Just in time to coincide with Sicko too !

I wonder why the health care system has been totally hijacked by Insurance companies ! ITs quiet sad ! Even the thought of going to a hospital makes me ignore my tooth ache and bite in a clove !

Heartcrossings said...

Sofi - Thanks for stopping by !

Sharda - Thanks !

Cheti - I so agree above biting a clove instead of seeing a doctor for a toothache. Even the thought of seeing a doctor in this country terrifies me. I'd much sooner take a flight home to India and see a doctor I trust - works out cheaper in the end.

Anonymous said...

Sicko is cool

Puja Sadani
Los Angeles, CA