Consumers Union campaign for warranties on implants reflects changes in medicine

It’s interesting to witness the democratization of medicine and to speculate about its impact on the healthcare supply chain profession. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean by democratization.

  • Used to be, the doctor was the answer man. When he came into the exam room, the patient shut up and let the doc do the poking and probing. The doctor jotted down some notes and the visit ended. That approach to patient care is dying. Today, consumers are better equipped with knowledge about medicine, thanks to the Internet. They come to their visit with questions for the doctor; maybe even some potential answers.
  • We’ve all seen the “Ask your doctor about [name your Rx]” commercials on TV and in consumer magazines. We take direct-to-consumer advertising for granted today, at least for pharmaceuticals. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. The drug companies have inserted themselves between the patient and the doctor. Interesting approach.
  • Doctors and hospitals are looking at their reimbursement being based, at least in part, on how patients perceive and feel about the care they receive. In the past, who cared what the patient thought? “We know what’s best for you” was the attitude on the part of the medical establishment. “You might not like it, but you’ll thank me later.”
  • Consumer Reports is working with the ABIM (American Board of Internal Medicine) Foundation
    and a number of medical specialty societies to publicize tests and procedures that those societies have identified as unnecessary or potentially harmful. It’s part of a program called Choosing Wisely®. The upshot is, people are questioning their doctor about the necessity of the tests he or she is ordering. Expect more questions, particularly as health insurance deductibles go up.

How might this democratization of medicine affect Journal of Healthcare Contracting readers? This fall, Consumers Union, which calls itself the policy arm of Consumer Reports, launched a campaign calling on manufacturers of hip and knee implants to provide warranties that would entitle patients to have defective devices replaced at no cost. Check it out at www.safepatientproject.org.

What’s interesting about the Consumers Union campaign is that it goes straight to consumers, and bypasses medical device manufacturers, hospital administrators, even supply chain executives.

It remains to be seen whether the call for warranties will catch on among consumers, and to what extent implant manufacturers will comply. But the campaign suggests more erosion in the B2B nature of our industry and the supply chain profession, and more B2C.

About the Author

Mark Thill
Mark Thill is the Editor of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting and has been reporting on healthcare supply chain issues since 1985. He is a graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and he received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.