On July 21, 2009, I read an article from the Washington Post written by the former chief pentagon spokesman during the Clinton Administration, Kenneth H. Bacon, who had metastatic melanoma. Mr. Bacon just recently passed away on August 17th. The article was titled “A Cancer Patients’ Perspective”, Focus on Enhancing the Systems Assets. This article was sent to me by a friend http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/20/AR2009072002386.html) who knows about my passion for healthcare reform and melanoma.
In this article, Mr. Bacon used the backdrop of the current healthcare debate and put his illness into the context of our current healthcare system. He believed, just as I do, that we do not need to alter the entire U.S. healthcare system in order to make it better. We should concentrate on fixing the problems, enhancing the components worth protecting, find savings and use these savings to provide care for the less fortunate Americans. His disease allowed him to see what many physicians have known for years that we must emphasize prevention, early detection and early intervention of diseases like melanoma.
With regards to melanoma, the traditional naked eye examination provided by physicians for the last 50 years is no longer an adequate level of prevention. It is not accurate, cost effective and results in too many biopsies. We have improved technology that has improved the number accuracy of early detection significantly. Yet the doctors in the United States still lag behind the physicians in the rest of the world in the use of this technology.
I believe that healthcare in the U.S. far exceeds the care in any other country. Yet, when it comes to melanoma, we do lag behind. While the rest of the world has embraced dermoscopy, also known as epiluminescence microscopy, only 23% of U.S. dermatologists provide this useful technology. Dermoscopy allows physicians to look at moles on the skin at an almost cellular level identifying patterns not visible to the naked eye. These patterns allow physicians to identify melanomas before they are visible to the naked eye. So we can identify the melanomas at an earlier stage and we can also reduce the number of biopsies.
If healthcare is to improve, we must find and utilize the best technology for the early detection of all diseases. Preventing poor outcomes will save valuable resources. These resources can be used to provide a safety net for the less fortunate. Improving healthcare does not require higher taxes, it requires better utilization of our current resources.