Medical Anthropology, Health Economics/Management and Policy Making
At a time of health reform including the expansion of medicaid and the redoing of hospital/physician compensation health economists and healthcare managers are dealing with possible organizational reformations and changes in the way they think about healthcare delivery in America. It is important for medical anthropologists to weigh in on these changes because switching from a per treatment payment system to one based on patient output (efficiency) and satisfaction (quality) will affect the manner in which patients wade through the hospital/healthcare system. I chose this topic because I study health economics and plan to pursue a career in the management of healthcare.
An anthropologist working for a non anthropologist such as a healthcare consulting firm or policy making body would need to get used to terms such as cost-efficiency and patients being referred to as healthcare consumers (Horton). It is important for an anthropologist to challenge or at least soften the tone. Healthcare decisions are not made by “rational consumers” honestly very few decisions are in general, but most economists and decision makers treat any situation in that manner. Decisions by policy makers would change the availability of healthcare, and most likely in an unequal manner. Anthropologists can study the ethnography of policy consequences (Pui). The idea of a rational, health-maximizing individual who experiences illness, consults with his or her referral network, reviews the available resources and then rationally chooses from among them has been for quite some time the way health economists and policy makers have thought about patients. Medical anthropologists have pointed out this idea’s ethnocentrism. “The model of the rational, autonomous care-seeker … serves best when used to study middle-class Americans who have health insurance and are seeking care for relatively minor problems.” (Good). In my opinion anthropologists or at least some anthropological thinking are needed in policy making.
A call to an Anthropology of Health Policy
Anthropology News; January 2006
Medicine, Rationality, and Experience