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A Republican, a Democrat, and a Baseball Manager Opine on Health Care

Reality BaseBy Melissa LafskyOctober 24, 2008 10:39 PM


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Massachusetts Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry, former Speaker of the House and conservative icon Newt Gingrich, and Oakland A's manager and minority owner Billy Beane aren't a trifecta you'd expect co-penning op-eds in the Times. But co-penning they are, on behalf of a common cause: health care. Specifically, they're making the argument that just as baseball has profited from a "data-driven approach" to recruiting and payrolls, we need to up our use of "evidence-based" technology—as opposed to the current practice of "informed opinion"—in the U.S. health care system. The crux of the argument is this:

Remarkably, a doctor today can get more data on the starting third baseman on his fantasy baseball team than on the effectiveness of life-and-death medical procedures. Studies have shownthat most health care is not based on clinical studies of what works best and what does not —be it a test, treatment, drug or technology. Instead, most care is based on informed opinion, personal observation or tradition. It is no surprise then that the United States spends more than twice as much per capita on health care compared to almost every other country in the world—and with worse health quality than most industrialized nations. Health premiums for a family of four have nearly doubled since 2001. Starbucks pays more for health care than it does for coffee. Nearly 100,000 Americans are killed every year by preventable medical errors. We can do better if doctors have better access to concise, evidence-based medical information.

Sound points, all—though many doctors might be less than pleased to hear their careers' worth of experience described as "informed opinion." Still, as the doctor shortage looms, the need for databases containing accurate records and medical information will likely become more important than ever. After all, somebody/thing's gotta keep track of all those boomer hip X-rays.

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