Why are we currently wasting about $15 billion each year to manage a problem that has a clear, permanent solution?
by Dr. Charles Mok
There is an enormous burden on the healthcare system in North America and it stems from ignoring modern advances in medicine. This willful ignorance is wasting about $15 billion dollars annually. There is a quote that really puts the reasoning behind this waste into perspective:
“For every pioneer in medicine, there are 1,000 self-appointed guardians of the past”.
Systems, people, and organizations sometimes have a vested interest in preserving the past. A person enters medical school, trains, and then enters her residency to focus on a specific area of medicine or even a specific surgery they’ll be performing throughout their career. They enter practice as a doctor, hire people, and develop a system around that training that they received.
And then something happens that shakes things up. What they were trained on has been replaced by something safer, easier, or less expensive, but that physician or healthcare organization has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. After all, they spent a lot of time and money to learn how to provide something that has now been replaced. Billions of dollars are being spent needlessly for a condition that is essentially curable. People are put into wound care centers many times throughout the course of their life for recurrent non-healing wounds when there’s a simple way to make about half of them go away forever.
The article “Human Skin Wounds: A Major and Snowballing Th reat to Public Health and the Economy” published in Wound Repair Regen ” identified that about $25-$30 billion annually is spent on management of chronic wounds serving 6.5 million patients. That works out to about $5000 per patient, being spent on wound care.In a significant percentage of cases, this is an ongoing , lifelong battle for these patients. The biggest problem are venous stasis ulcers. These are the result of a condition known as venous insufficiency which can lead to something as simple as varicose veins, but can also lead to leg wounds known as venous ulcers in a little under 2% of the population.
At Allure, we have been treating venous insufficiency, varicose veins, and venous ulcers for about 12 years when monitored advances were discovered, FDA cleared, and eventually covered by insurance carriers. We are treating varicose veins with a modern solution that does not involve surgery. We start by doing an ultrasound to identify areas of a condition called reflux were the valves are not working properly. We then use a laser or radiofrequency device to fix that problem, and then we inject a medication into the varicose veins. This completely replaced the need for surgical stripping for our patients.In 2006, I performed a study to help a laser manufacturer get FDA approval to treat perforator veins, which cause venous ulcers. I was working in a varicose vein practice, seeing more and more patients who had venous ulcers and when I treated these perforator veins, just like I did with the valves of the reflux, they would heal quickly. Other doctors were observing this effect as well. We performed about 400 procedures and it worked almost every time. The laser company that I used, and another company that uses radiofrequency developed methods to treat these perforator veins easily, have been doing so for over a decade.
Research has shown that when patients have chronic venous stasis ulcers (leg ulcerations or wounds caused from venous reflux or venous insufficiency) treated with laser or radiofrequency ablation, the ulcers heal very rapidly. In fact, the research has found that compared to traditional methods, patients treated with treated with laser or radiofrequency ablation heal about three times faster. Unlike conventional treatment in a wound care center for leg ulcers, the recurrence rate after laser radio frequency treatment is less than 5%. Traditional treatment, involving bandages dressings medications, skin flaps, and other wound care management, costs thousands of dollars every year and has a typical recurrence rate of 70% within a couple of years.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Health Crisis in America” to learn more about why doctors haven’t recognized what they have been doing for years does not work well!