Saturday, June 4, 2011

Health Care Brittleness

Two stories—one on researchers finding a new kind of antibiotically-resistant MRSA (which is a nasty disease that tends to strike patients in hospital) and the other on that big E. coli outbreak in Europe (which is also resistant to antibiotics)—are worth following for what they say about our health system these days.

For one, it’s about globalization—researchers are worried about this new gene in MRSA because it’s at 1% of the population, because of its ability to multiply, propagate, and spread. (They found it in farm animals, which perhaps indicates its ability to spread easily from humans to animals back to humans again).

For two, it’s about our poor use of antibiotics, which we overuse like the rest of our health care interventions, which makes the subsequent problem all the worse.

We have a health care system for which most of the individual moves are rational but the final result isn’t. That’s poor incentives at work.

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