OK

Or, what's wrong with the American health care system.  

My husband had to go to the hospital for a minor, routine surgical procedure yesterday.  The first surprise was the heated hospital gown.  No longer does the patient don the old-fashioned, well-worn and washed, cotton fabric hospital gown.  The new gown is insulated paper and it is heated!  It's like an electric blanket with holes for arms and ties for securing it around one's body.  And it's not heated by wires but by a hot-air blower.  Seriously.  It has a plastic portal for connecting a hose to it; it's something like the hose on your vacuum cleaner - about 1.5 inches in diameter - and some device on the wall blows warm air through the hose into the gown to keep the patient warm.  Also this bizarre mechanism includes a control device, something like the control device for an electric blanket, or any other ordinary electrical device.  The control device has a dial, so the patient can turn the heat up or down and regulate his temperature.  My husband was also given a blanket.

When I expressed surprise at seeing the new, improved hospital gown to the nurse, she explained that when a patient is anesthetized, his body temperature can decrease, so the new, improved hospital gown is designed to ensure that his body temperature stays up.   I didn't ask, but I sure am wondering whether this is all really necessary.  Have a signficiant number of people been harmed because their body temperature decreased while they were anesthetized for surgery?  Have people died?  Because I never heard of it, but then I am not a medical researcher.  I have just never understood that decreasing body temperature during surgery has been an important medical issue.

Of course, we were not given a choice about this gown.  It was produced, explained and my husband put it on as instructed.  The hose was connected and he fooled a bit with the dial.  And that was it.  Presumably it kept him warm and toasty during surgery, although given the fact that he was out cold, one wonders who could have manipulated the dial.  But whatever.  Next time I'll ask about that.  When the surgery was over and he was sitting in his recovery recliner in the recovery room, the dial was forgotten as other things consumed our attention, e.g. elevated blood pressure.  The magical heated gown was discarded as we eagerly rushed to leave the hospital and go home.  Neither of us likes hospitals.  We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

I am wondering if I'll see a bill that discloses how much our health insurance company has to pay for this miracle of modern medicine.  I'm thinking that with the plastic hose, the dial control, and the rest of it, this marvel of engineering is probably charged at over $50.00 and if I had to put a price on it, I'd bet it costs about $150.  Does anyone know how much a hospital charges for these things?  

I completely doubt the medical necessity for this forced-air hospital gown.  I doubt that a decrease in body temperature during anesthetization for surgery is a significant medical problem, or a problem that a blanket couldn't solve.  If we'd have been given a choice, asked if we wanted the forced-air heated gown as opposed to the good old-fashioned cotton gown, which has served humanity well for decades at least, we'd have said, "Are you joking?"  

This is part of what is wrong with our health-care system.  We pay for all kinds of stuff that isn't necessary and don't have the option of saying, "No!"  We could save our insurer and ourselves, in the long run, a lot of money, if we had a choice from time to time.  But no one ever explains the possible risks and potential benefits of anything that is done, so we are forced to consume and forced to pay.  And that's got to be part of the reason it costs us so much more than it should.

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