Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My pick? The next bubble: Medical

I'm not an economist. I don't pretend to understanding all the factors in various economies. I don't pretend to understand the current financial crisis or the internet bubble (or even the tulip bubble in the Netherlands in the 1630s).

But I will share my observation and experience. Some months ago, I went to a local newly renovated hospital for some routine tests. (I'm fine, btw).

I was taken aback by the opulence. I have been to the Hermitage (in St. Petersburg), and that palace was opulent.

(Note: this is a photo from the Hermitage museum, NOT the local hospital)

And I do believe that a person's environment and surroundings influence their attitude.

But this hospital was full of new, original works of art (paintings and sculpture). This was not the framed print from motel 8. In the lobby, full of plush new chairs, there was a grand piano. There was also a schedule for when the pianist would be performing (8 - 5, daily).

If I hadn't seen the wheelchairs, I wouldn't have realized I was in a hospital lobby.

The other thing to bring up is that in our large Midwestern town, there are at least four other major hospitals within a thirty minute radius. And they are all competing for patients (and physicians). They want to provide the best experience possible. Sometimes I feel like they are re-decorating just to re-decorate.

Because the health care business is booming.

And much like the housing crisis, I've also heard comments like "people will always get sick. They will always need access to good health care."

That statement is emphatically true.

But just as with housing, the level of care (or type of housing people will always need) changes. Clearly, housing prices have not always gone up. So will the medical field continue to grow? Exponentially?

Do I really need a hospital with a pianist in the front lobby? Do I (or my insurance) really need to pay for that? Can I live without that and still have a good experience getting medical care?

I do want to go to a doctor with the best experience and good, safe, reliable equipment.

I also believe in supporting the arts.

However, it is hard to support the arts on the backs of people going bankrupt to pay for their illnesses.

At what point does this system reach critical mass, where the field has over-extended? I can't say. And how can we balance good care and availability of care? Maybe it will never be over-extended or over-built.

I don't have a solution.

I just observe that maybe we need to re-think our priorities as a society.


Freckle Face Girl said...

I think you are right. We've actually seen evidence of it here in Houston. One of the big hospitals shut down and a few of them are having lay-offs, even the very popular - MD Anderson (one of the top cancer hospitals in the US).

Aerin said...

Thanks FFG....looks like my state is a few years behind others (as usual!)

C. L. Hanson said...

Wow, that is really strange! We'll be back in the U.S. for six months soon, and I'm actually kind of worried to bring my family back to the world of bizarro insanely-expensive-for-all-the-wrong-reasons health care...

Anonymous said...

Would that be A. Bros in H.E. or E.V?

Aerin said...

Hi Anonymous - I have no idea what you're talking about. Can you explain more about how your comment relates to the medical bubble topic?

Anonymous said...

It's not about the bubble but the hospital you mentioned. My MIL was scheduled for surgery recently. We came a couple of days before the surgery. Turned out to be a good thing she had an accident and wound up in emergency surgery 4 days before the scheduled procedure, so we spent a lot of time there. The hospital was like you describe, plush chairs, original artwork(lots of tile mosaics) and a grand piano with a schedule posted for the pianist. It also played by itself when the pianist wasn't there. My kids just loved that and the fountains.

Quite a bit different from the "institutional" building decorated with artwork from the local schools we have.