Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Parallels Between the Sugary Beverage Ban and the Accountability Movement in Health Care

If New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his anti-obesity way, the Big Apple will begin banning the restaurant and concession sale of sugary beverages that exceed a volume 16 fluid ounces as early as March of 2015.  The Disease Management Care Blog suspects there is one big reason why Hizonner is deploying brute force in this battle of the bulge, this confrontation of the calories, this attack on adiposity:

It works.

Contrast the approach of simply outlawing obesogenic drinks with kinder and gentler approaches, like those based on education (food labeling and warnings), economic incentives (fat taxes), appeals to self-interest ("you'll look and feel better!") or enculturation (starting with food choices in our schools' cafeterias).  They all have their role, but let's face it: we don't heed labels, hate taxes, find life-style changes difficult, are suckers for the food industry's marketing and ultimately like the taste rush of corn syrup.  Take a stroll through Manhattan and it's pretty obvious we have a problem.

The Big Apple is doing this for our own public health good.

This lesson prompts the Disease Management Care Blog to ponder the largest threat to the success of the "accountability" movement in health care.  By "aligning" economic interests, offering savings-based "gain-sharing," leveraging decision support and enculturating physicians into "systems" of care imbued with best practices championed by physician leadership, we believe our collective taste for high cost testing, technology and pharmaceuticals will fade faster than the flab on The Biggest Loser.

Is that so?  Maybe not, and so the DMCB offers up two observations:

1. Assuming physicians are people and patients have their self-interest at heart, the likelihood that our appetitite for over-testing, the latest tech and brand name drugs will be blunted by electronic health record decision-support warnings, the promise of some savings-based future bonus, appeals at staff meetings to do the right thing or an expectation that physician culture will change is about as realistic as a successful John Edwards White House run in 2016.

2. And assuming that none of that works, the likelihood that future local and national politicians will use the same public health logic and announce a Bloomberg-esque "ban" of some high cost low value tests, technology and drugs is almost certain.

You read it here first.

Image from Wikipedia   

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