The Globalization of Health Care
May 9th, 2013
Health care has been essentially a service provided locally for centuries; a patient feels chest pains, takes a fall, or fractures a limb, and he/she immediately seeks medical assistance from the closest source. According to the case study introduction by Hill, Charles W. L. (2011), for that possible reason, it was long thought that “health care is one of the industries least vulnerable to dislocation from globalization” (p. 42). However, one could draw conclusion, using Hill, Charles W. L. (2011), that several mitigating factors have enabled not only the globalization of marketable production-based goods, but also of service-related industries such as legal services and using medical diagnostics as well as surgical procedures; the case makes a compelling, if somewhat incomplete, case for globalization based upon factors such as cost reduction and improved quality of care; however, further research supports the case study’s findings.
Factors such as a perceived shortage of qualified cardiologists to meet a rising demand for services is a possible explanation. Although, in the Time Magazine article by Brill, Steven (2013, March 4), he exposed the widespread practice of ordering medically unnecessary CT scans. Statistics show that the use of CT scans alone has more than quadrupled in recent decades, many times to ward off a possible malpractice lawsuit, but oftentimes to drive up profits. The demand for more skilled physicians to interpret results may be genuine, yet it is exacerbated by profit-driven hospitals eager to pay for expensive equipment within a short time. As surmised by Hill, Charles W. L. (2011), making much-needed care more accessible and affordable certainly makes outsourcing to less costly, but equally skilled, physicians in Mexico, India, and Singapore more attractive.
Additionally, escalating costs of health care in the U.S. (driven mainly by hospital / pharmaceutical profits as our country’s sixth largest economy), and technological innovations, which would allow efficient use of “outsourcing,” both contribute to the globalization of health care. As stated by Hill, Charles W. L. (2011), the assigned case cites U.S. surgical costs in the hundreds of thousands for surgeries such as hip and bypass surgeries while those same surgeries, with travel expenses included, cost much less when outsourced. Furthermore, technological advancements in the past several decades have greatly increased efficiencies with immense cost-saving and life-saving benefits. Per Hill, Charles W. L. (2011), a great argument can be made for outsourcing diagnostics to the other side of the world; while American doctors are asleep, Indian counterparts can be hard at work interpreting films or CTs, readying the results for swift treatment the next day.
One of the most important factors supporting globalization, however, is the pushback of insurance companies and uninsured / underinsured consumers in an effort to reign in costs and create a more competitive health care economy. In a Time Magazine article by Brill, Steven (2013, March 4, the investigative journalist and author published several startling facts: Americans pay more per person for health care than Denmark, Australia, Japan, and Spain, yet our life expectancy is lower; we are number 50th in infant mortality, and 69% of American citizens who’ve experienced medically-related bankruptcy “were insured at the time of their filing,” meaning insurance failed to protect other valuable assets in a time of major illness or injury (p. 29). I surmised from Hill, Charles W. L. (2011) that it is no wonder that American employers, together with large insurance carriers such as Aetna, now encourage its health insurance customers to seek treatment abroad in order to reduce costs. Who Benefits? Who Loses?
Given the spiraling costs of U.S....
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