Monday, April 02, 2012

A Note on St. Christopher's Hospital for Children

A week ago last Friday the Inky ran a story on shopping for health care when you have a high deductible plan ("Patients becoming shoppers under high-deductible health plans," by Dan Sapatkin, 3/23).  One of the examples the story gave concerned St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.  I hadn't really given St. Christopher's much thought before; it is outside of my normal health care routine and geographic area.

But as it happens I spent most of the day at that hospital on March 23rd so I read that story with great interest.  It's true that routine health care tests can be done much less expensively at clinics like Quest Diagnostics.  That's where my family doctor sends me for blood tests, etc.  While we are a frugal family, health care is not really where I want to cut costs. 

We ended up going to St. Christopher's because at the point of initial contact for this particular situation all of the specialists in our area were booked up for a few months and we needed something immediately.  The doctor associated with St. Christopher's had an opening.  Shopping around is great if you have the time but sometimes that's a luxury you don't have.  The article also takes note that teaching hospitals are expensive.  That's true.  It's also true that most doctors spend some time at one during their early training years.  Something things are simply a public good.  If you want properly trained doctors we all have to share in some of that cost.

Perhaps another point to consider is this:  if someone is going to take a sharp object, open up your child's body, and poke around in there with other sharp objects, is that really when you want to go with the lowest possible bidder?  I'll pay a little extra for quality there.

St. Christopher's is not in the best neighborhood (going by appearances) but the decor is wonderful, and designed for children.  There are interactive wall and floor panels; the whole thing is done in a forest motif.  (I've included a few pictures.)   The people there are professional but friendly. 

We do need to find ways of reducing health care costs and routine testing may be one place that outsourcing can be effective.  I'm also in favor of clinics for urgent but not emergency care.  We still need good hospitals though, with well-qualified and well-trained doctors, and that is not an inexpensive proposition. 

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