RWJF Clinical Scholar Alumnus Talks About "Business Side" of Patient Treatment

Mar 5, 2011, 5:31 PM, Posted by

Imagine this: you’ve had an accident and totaled your relatively inexpensive, extremely reliable car. The insurance company offers to replace it with a luxury car, at no extra cost. You know the luxury car may not last as long or work as well, but it’s the newest thing on the market. Do you take it?

Consumers sometimes think of their health care and health insurance in this way, said RWJF Clinical Scholar alumnus David Penson, M.D., M.P.H. (1997-1999), a professor of urologic surgery and medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He recently spoke with Larry Van Horn, of Forbes’ Second Opinion blog, about the “business side of patient care.”

Prostate cancer patients, for instance, tend to shop around for doctors and treatment options, Penson said. “Because it’s the most common cancer among men, it‘s also highly susceptible to marketing hype.”

A new, well-marketed method of radiation treatment for prostate cancer has been generating a lot of interest among patients, so urologists are spending money to purchase the machine it requires. But there’s no real evidence to show that this type of treatment is any more beneficial than other treatments, Penson said.

“Let’s acknowledge that health care is a business and that all the players — doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical and device companies and patients — are trying to stay in the black,” Penson told Forbes. “If patients acted more like they do in other areas of consumer purchases, such as buying a house, they’d feel okay asking tough questions of the seller.”

Read the interview.

Learn more about the RWJF Clinical Scholars program.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.