Social Media’s Role in Healthcare

After learning about the history of health care and a little bit of why the health care system is the way it is today, the title “Social Media For Health Care, Who’s Doing It Right” on immediately grabbed my attention. Social media, while it is such a major part of everyday life today, is a relatively new aspect of society. For the first time companies can reach out to customers in ways that previously would have been impossible. The internet has undeniably changed the way people learn and access information. These days information about healthcare is at everyone’s fingertips. Continue reading “Social Media’s Role in Healthcare”

In ” The Rise of the Modern Hospital”, Charles Rosenberg discusses the drastic evolution of hospitals. Prior to the 1920s hospitals were a place where only the poor would go. Anyone who had any social standing had their care given to them at home. Hospitals did not have a business stand point at all. The patients went to receive care, food, and shelter, and the doctors and nurses used the patients as a learning opportunity. After the 1920s this dramatically changed. With new technology hospitals flourished and were no longer thought to be reserved for the poor. Now hospitals are so expensive that many people go bankrupt after visiting them.

In class we watched a video about Bumrungrad International Hospital. This is the most “modern hospital” I have ever seen. The patients are considered to be guests in a hotel. You can even pay for your check up with frequent flyer points. Even with all of this luxury Bumrungrad care cost one eighth of the price of an US hospital, and the hospital still makes a very good profit off of the care.

The dramatic differences in what a hospital once was and what it is today brings about a lot of questions does advanced technology create more patient trust? If both the Bumrungrad and US hospitals have licensed experienced doctors what makes US health care prices justifiable? Are luxurious hospitals like Bumrungrad pushing health care even further into commercialism, and consumerism?

The Rise of the Modern Hospital

In the excerpt, The Rise of the Modern Hospital, Charles Rosenberg argued that medical and technological advancements, such as the establishment of the germ theory and x-rays, contributed to the people’s changing opinions towards hospitals. The continuous advancement of both medical and non-medical technology, in addition to performance of major surgical procedures, contributed to the steady rise of costs. Continue reading “The Rise of the Modern Hospital”

Bought Doctors: Pharmaceutical Marketing

As part of Chapter 9 in his book “How Doctors Think”, Groopman describes how deeply pharmaceutical companies can affect the decisions that doctors make for their patients through aggressive marketing strategies. By offering things ranging from free samples of drugs available to patients at the doctor’s office in order to get a patient hooked on more expensive drugs to “gifts” (monetary or otherwise) given to doctors who push for the use of specific drugs or treatments, pharmaceutical companies can easily influence the medical field’s determination of what conditions should be medicalized.

The way pharmaceutical companies in a way “buy off” doctors really reminded me of how big corporations “buy off” politicians (essentially paying for the re-election campaigns of these politicians) to lobby (for example) bills to create tax or regulation loopholes. As there is a big push right now to get money out of politics, I was wondering, why there is not a big push to also get money out of the medical field? Has medicine really become so corporatized that the priority is no longer the well-being of the patient and is now more focused on how much profit everyone in each tier of the medical system can make? A more important question would probably be, would it even be possible to get money out of the medical field, with possible solutions including but not being limited to the standardization of drug prices (like in Canada)?

The Effect of Media on Patient Autonomy

In the article, nutritionists are coming to a startling conclusion as to why nutrition counselors have the lowest success rates among healthcare providers.  They realized that information overload is affecting their clients’ successes. This excess of information is a product of the media which creates conflicting views for clients who are trying to follow their diet schedules. The newfound information confuses clients and as a result, they quit their schedules and simply wait for a more “efficient” way to get results. People are more easily swayed by the media to believe what their nutritionist is saying is false because the effects of their diet take too long.

This article made me think of patient autonomy in a sense where the doctor(nutritionist) prescribes the medication(the fitness plan) but the patient consumer chooses to follow his/her own research. In the past, doctors had to worry about patients seeking information from credible sources but now, doctors don’t have to just worry about the self-sought knowledge of their patients but also the information gained from the media. As a media driven society, it is scary to see how the media has so much power over the consumer and even over health choices. Although the nutritionists in the article seemed very confident that consumers will realize that the media propagandizes information, if a change doesn’t happen soon in which patients can avidly rely on their doctors, then the medical advice may become nothing but countless advertisements.

The Social Construct of Illness

In Conrad and Baker’s article, they claim that illness is socially constructed. They state that the social construct of illness is “rooted in the widely recognized conceptual distinction between disease (the biological condition) and illness (the social meaning of the condition).” Social constructionists emphasize how the meaning and experience of illness is shaped by cultural and social systems. This suggests that individuals and groups not only suffer from the illness physically, but that there is also a social/societal stigmatism that comes with illness/disease that brings an added burden to any sufferers. Conrad and Baker state that a stigmatized illness can make an illness much more difficult to treat and manage. The stigma that comes with disease is often brought about because of widespread publicity about the disease and/or a widespread negative view to people with the particular condition. The two claim that effective policies for these stigmatized illness have a large barrier to overcome because of the added stigma. Should policy be focussed on overcoming the barrier, or should it be focussed on educating the people so that the stigma is generally removed from a particular condition? Should limits be placed on care publicity (i.e: drug/treatment ads) so that the stigma is lessened, or should the marketing of treatment be changed so that the stigma associated with a particular illness is one that encourages early treatment and proactivity?

Self-Efficacy in the Health Belief Model

In Chapter 2 of The Sociology of Health, Illness & Health Care, Weitz describes the Health Belief Model, a psychological model used to effectively predict and account for health behaviors of a population. Through consideration of diversity in the collective attitude and beliefs of a group of individuals, the model outlines several core assumptions indicative as to why a particular individual acts in a health-related action. Some of the assumptions include: perceived susceptibility, one’s consideration of the chances of acquiring a condition, perceived severity, one’s consideration of the consequences to a condition, and perceived benefits, one’s belief that he or she can take the greatest course of action to reduce the risk or danger of a condition. Weitz addresses the model’s underlying concept of self-efficacy and applies its effect in a hypothetical perspective of those with power in healthcare. He suggests that under the consideration of the assumptions outlined in the model, individuals responsible for the promotion or other public expression of particular forms of medicine would be more inclined to empathize with the general public and heed warning to the possible side effects and dangers of not only an immediate medication, but as well as an unhealthy lifestyle often seen in Americans today. Continue reading “Self-Efficacy in the Health Belief Model”

Process Reflection 1

Throughout the past several weeks in our Sociology of Healthcare course, I have been able to effectively narrow what limited knowledge I have regarding the errors in our nation’s healthcare system to a finer understanding. Initially, my image of our healthcare system was thought to have revolved primarily around profit-oriented politicians, businessmen, and pharmaceutical companies situating their respective motives on self-benefit over the patient/consumer. While much of our nation’s inefficiency lies in the overshadowing of greed upon the lives of the patient from these overarching companies and personnel, one must consider the differences between “sociology in medicine” and “sociology of medicine.”

Continue reading “Process Reflection 1”

Transparency in Healthcare Costs: Benefit Value Advisor?

Consumerism is a rising concept in today’s healthcare system. Patient-centeredness and so called “independence” increase the patients’ responsibility in their healthcare demands and choices for treatment and hospital visits. However, as the article states, the healthcare market is not like the others: patients “consumers find it very difficult to assess the relative value (quality versus cost) of the different care options and providers that are available to them”. Because unlike simple markets,”health care marketplace generally lacks price transparency”.

Acknowledging the difficulty of measuring healthcare quality vs the cost, the article proposes a solution or an idea to overcome the ambiguity in the healthcare market, or at least for what patients are actually paying for. The rising costs and overutilization still remain a problem in consumerism because “more healthcare is thought to be better healthcare”. But if patients were aware of the raw costs of their treatment, they would realize that what they were paying for is actually mainly for the profit of the hospital. Therefore a transparency in hospital bills or other healthcare costs is necessary to inform the patients, since in today’s individualist world they hold more responsibility in their expenses. The article highlights such a demand:  “A growing number of employers are asking for tools to help members in their health-benefit plans gain insight into prices and quality so that they can become more informed consumers of health care.” It also presents a tool called “Benefit Value Advisor” to inform the employers or healthcare “consumers” about the true value or true cost of the treatment they are getting as well as the median value of the treatment, so that they can compare the value given to them and be more eligible to make a decision about their “consumption”.

Such a system is necessary because in a healthcare system where patients carry the burden of being true consumers, they must be given the actual rights to act like one. That is, they should know the variety of options to choose from, as well as getting access to a maximixed quality with minimized cost. However, even though such a tool can be standardized, the healthcare is still in essence very different from other markets because it is mankind’s utmost right and need. So what will fight the rising costs in the first place, and how will people get the “highest-value option” in an emergency?

Could a Single Payer System Exist in the United States?

In Sarah Wheaton’s article “ Why single payer died in Vermont,” the point is brought up that besides financial constraints, there is a good deal of political opposition to the single payer system including push back from existing insurance companies that will be kicked out of the market, and a general understanding that Americans inherently distrust government-run anything. The suggestion was made that there has to “be so much pressure that it’s like a volcano goes off and it happens.” Continue reading “Could a Single Payer System Exist in the United States?”