Friday, April 2, 2010

DIY Medicine vs. The Doctor - eh?

I heard an ad on the radio the other day for a free magical in-home cholesterol testing kit and it really got me thinking about doctors and health care and politics… and then I drove my car directly off the nearest cliff.

Just kidding, but seriously. It did make me wonder about the cost of health-related services and the legitimacy of do-it-yourself medicinal practice. Let’s break this down like its 1997 and Limp Bizkit just hit the stage… ya’ll.

1) The magical in-home cholesterol testing kit, or MIHCTK as we call it on the streets, gives your results immediately… which means apparently this company has the technology that my doctor, who tells me I need to wait 10 days for the results, is sorely lacking. Seriously, 10 days to get blood test results? Aren’t they just putting the blood in a little robot that shakes it up then analyzes it? Or maybe that was Jurassic Park…. Either way, 10 days seems a bit absurd doc.

2) The MIHCTK costs practically nothing – after all, the ad said it was free, and I think I heard that somewhere on the Internet too (ed. note: sarcasm). Whereas the doctor… well that’s a conversation that could be as diluted and misunderstood as the health care bill itself (heyooooo!). Let’s say you have a $20 co-pay, you haven’t reached your $500 deductible and the test isn’t considered “preventative” according to some stranger-with-no-insight-into-your-specific-health-situation’s definition of the term. One could realistically be looking at $100 just to determine your HDL, LDL and Triglycerides.

So for those of you keeping score at home…
Doctor: 10 days (or 14,400 minutes) vs. MIHCTK: 5 minutes
Doctor: $100 vs. MIHCTK: free
Score at the end of two -- Doctor: 0 – MIHCTK: 2.

I know, I know – (read this in a condescending tone) “What do you know about cholesterol and health care and all that jazz Mr. Big Shot blogger dude with 35 fans on Facebook and three followers on Twitter?” And to be honest, you’d be absolutely correct in assuming said condescending tone. I know next to nothing, other than what Bill O’Reilly and John Stewart tell me.

What I DO know is that many people, including myself, avoid the doctor / dentist / optometrist / podiatrist / whateverist like the plague (how ironic) because every time we go, we get a bill a few weeks later even though we thought the service/procedure was covered. During a routine procedure recently, I flat out looked my doctor in the eye and said “Wait, is this going to cost me extra?” He quickly mutters something about how it’s definitely covered if I have insurance X (which I do). Two weeks later, wouldn’t you know, I get a bill from his office for several hundred bucks and then a $350 bill from some lab who apparently analyzed the results. What. The. Ef. (PG-13)

So at this point, the only saving grace for doctors in my cholesterol screening competition is the expertise factor. If my doctor finds that my cholesterol is high, he can set me on the right path and give me recommendations for a healthier lifestyle… but can’t I get that on the internet anyways? Ugh.

In the end though, despite trailing 0 – 2, the doctor will inevitably win this round. The organization offering the MIHCTK was a fish oil company that claims its product drastically reduces cholesterol… I’d be willing to bet the MIHCTK tells damn near everyone their cholesterol is too high. And after all, haven’t our grandparents, parents and economics teachers always said there’s no such thing as a free lunch? And if there’s no such thing as a free lunch, clearly there’s no such thing as a free MIHCTK.

- TS

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