By Dr. Tim Bartholow, WEA Trust Chief Medical Officer
Before joining the Trust, I spent 16 years caring for patients as a family practitioner in Sauk City, Wisconsin. We built teams to make our care not only personalized, but also more consistent. Unfortunately, I also had a front row seat to witnessing rising deductibles that were forcing people to choose between care and basic household necessities.
Being concerned about patients being priced out of their own care, I then served as the Wisconsin Medical Society’s Chief Medical Officer. I worked on building collaborations with nurses and pharmacists to make safer care with less variation, and smarter ways to pay for this better type of care.
Now, as the Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at WEA Trust, I’m tasked with working with health care systems in the state with the goal of improving patient access to the best and most appropriate care possible. Over the last couple decades, I’ve witnessed health care costs devastate family budgets.
Today, too many people are not able to afford their recommended care. For some it’s because they cannot afford the time away from the two jobs they are working to make ends meet. For others, they’re forced into payment plans after a large expense. Doctors of my generation were taught that it is immoral to consider cost when making recommendations to the patient – which I believe is simply misguided. In fact, we want patients and their care teams to be cost aware so they can carefully choose the type of care that each patient needs.
In addition, we also want doctors to be clear when there is little benefit of treatment and the treatment itself is expensive. This cost awareness is a new behavior for our health care system. You all deserve this information, so you can make informed decisions—after all, you have to pay for these decisions.
We need a place to discuss these issues, so I’m beginning a series of blog posts and I invite you to follow along. I’ll periodically ask others to weigh into these discussions too. We’ll discuss various aspects of health care—insurance, hospitals, quality of care, cost of care—to name a few.
Right now, the health care system is-
Not sensitive enough to a family’s budget.
Not sufficiently focused on providing the very best care for the least intervention to the patient’s body.
Not talking about (or even sharing) the risks of healthcare decisions with the patient.
Our health care system is capable of being better than this, and I’m betting that you, like I do, expect that for the extraordinary amount we are paying, that we receive the best care. I hope you will join this discussion and help make critical change with me.