What If Ibuprofen Put My Dad In The Hospital? The Simple Math
If you owned a hospital, what is the mathematical probability that you could count on the taxpayer funded ignorance to help you defray your expenses?
What follows is a very crude study hoping to demonstrate that there is a mathematical probability. It is not intended to be accurate, nor is that the point.
Who This Is For
- Anyone who pays taxes
- Anyone who takes over the counter medication
- Anyone who lives with anyone in the above two groups
Our objective in this silly exercise is to make a prediction about financial implications of certain types of ignorance, and who is going to pay for them.
Example: My Dad, Arthritis, Ibufprofen
Fact: Approximate 40 million people suffer from arthritis. My dad is one of them.
Fact: This article says 30 million people take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. My dad took 6 a day for years - actually on a self imposed schedule. Same time every day, empty stomach or not. Uh-oh.
Fact: Humans don't usually waste a bunch of time doing silly analytics on what to do or not do.
They know facts, such as
- "I hurt"
- "This over the counter medication helps"
and they do what they need to do. That's as complicated as it needs to get.
Fact: My 81 year old dad ended up in the hospital last week. Almost didn't get there alive. The ibuprofen had eaten holes in his stomach or intestines, and when the doctor prescribed an antibiotic to address the bleeding, it tipped him over the edge and he almost died in a blood coughing fit.
Don't worry, the U.S. Taxpayer came to the rescue. My dad is OK now, the hospital system has a bunch of it's daily bills paid, and life goes on. It's a good thing, because my dad is a fun guy to keep around.
How Much Did it Cost?
Ha. Here's where it's good NOT to know things.
- Start with a 911 call
- Go into ICU
- Spend several days doing expensive tests to make sure you got it all covered.
- Four blood transfusions.
- High tech cameras taking 6000 pictures as it goes down the system.
I'm guessing $25,000. Frankly, I don't want to know. It's going to be a lot. Let's use that as some kind of crude starting point, this is just an exercise anyway.
Fun With Math:
Let's make some silly assumptions and do some silly math.
30 million people take anti-inflammatory drugs for this particular ailment.
Let's assume that 10% do so carelessly, without reading about potential side effects of prolonged use. So that's 3 million.
Let's assume that 1% of these actually get to a problem state in any particular year, such as my dad. That's 3000.
Let's assume that of these, half find out too late and end up in the hospital with a bill similar to my dad's. That's 1500.
1500 people X $25000 = $37,500,000
I'm betting this number is actually much higher, but this is just a silly exercise, the actual number is not important because we're not going to do anything about it anyway.
My dad is like me, he's an information junkie. If he had the information, he would have been happy to act upon it.
He explained this from his hospital bed. He felt pretty bad about all this - pretty expensive mistake on his part - and one he will not have to pay for, financially. He feels bad about that too, not that he really could have. That's a big chunk of change for a part time choir director.
The information was there, there was just too much of it, and he didn't have his filters set right to know which information to pay attention to and which not to.
Then there's the whole question of information and liability. If the problem exists, who is responsible for making sure that the information gets past the filters? Naaah, that's a problem for another day....
Let's Assume That Social Engineering Is Bad
$37 million is a lot of money. Never mind the minor inconvenience to my dad of almost dying.
Given that I was raised in a culture where communism was to blame for just about everything that might be bad in the universe, it just isn't reasonable to expect that we might attempt to engineer our way out of this through education."Mr Carapetyan, this is the Thought Police calling from Central Government [who pays old people's hospital bills]. Yes sir, we are just calling to make sure you aren't taking any over the counter medicines in a way that creates a financial liability to younger right wingers who hate paying taxes."
That would not be a call which one would expect in this political environment.
So, instead, it's just a math game. We know that the train wreck is going to happen. We know it's going to cost us perhaps $37 million annually plus the minor inconvenience of death and hospitalizations. "Deal with it," as my teenage kids often told me.
Turns out my dad's doctor played a significant role here as well. This is all fourth hand information, so please take the following story with a grain of salt. It is also based on conjecture, which is usually way off.
Dad visits his primary care physician the week previously because he is suffering from coughing up minor amounts of blood in his mouth.
Doctor prescribes a kick-ass anti-biotic. This is what seems to have tipped the scales and put dad into the state that Becky found him in, in the middle of night as he was gurgling up blood in his sleep.
I'm not saying that was the wrong prescription, I know no more than I just presented above. Just that the numbers seem stacked against the taxpayer in these types of situations.
Doctors hate checklists, and checklists save lives. This topic has been covered in recent books by Malcolm Gladwell, and you can google it or find samples of articles such as here and here. But if doctors didn't hate them so much, they could probably save us taxpayers a bunch of cash.
Humans hate checklists too.
In conclusion, hatred[of checklists], in this case has a price. This price is concrete and financial, not abstract. And it will be paid, there is no getting around it. "Just a question of who pays, that's all." That's what my dad said from his phone in the hospital room. Insightful comment, dad.