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Thursday, January 24, 2013

What if your medical care came with a warranty?

"What if medical care came with a 90-day warranty? That is what a hospital group in central Pennsylvania is trying to learn in an experiment that some experts say is a radically new way to encourage hospitals and doctors to provide high-quality care that can avoid costly mistakes. The group, Geisinger Health System, has overhauled its approach to surgery. And taking a cue from the makers of television sets, washing machines and other consumer products, Geisinger essentially guarantees its workmanship, charging a flat fee that includes 90 days of follow-up treatment.
If a patient suffers complications or has to return to the hospital, Geisinger promises not to send the insurer another bill. 
Geisinger is not the only hospital system rethinking ways to better deliver care that might also reduce costs. 
But Geisinger's effort is a noteworthy departure from the typical medical reimbursement system in the United States, under which doctors and hospitals are paid mainly for delivering more care - not necessarily better care. 
Since Geisinger began its experiment in February 2006, focusing on elective heart bypass surgery, it says patients have been less likely to return to intensive care, have spent fewer days in the hospital and are more likely to return directly to their own homes instead of a nursing home.
Geisinger is trying to address what it views as a fundamental flaw in the typical medical reimbursement system. Under that system, missing an antibiotic or giving poor instructions when a patient is released from the hospital results in a perverse reward: the chance to bill the patient again if more treatment becomes necessary. As a result, doctors and hospitals have little incentive to consistently provide the treatments that medical research has shown to produce the best results." 

It has now been more than 5 years since this Geisinger initiative. What are your thoughts? Would you want to be offered a guarantee on elective medical care provided to you?


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