If healthcare reform, Obama style, gets traction and becomes the new reality in America, one completely overlooked consequence will be that the highly-popular television show, HOUSE, will have to say “yes, we can” and go off the air. Or at-the-least, the program will have to be shortened to one act, focused completely on a waiting room and with the only dramatic tension being just which one test the team will choose to run.
If you are not a regular viewer, what you need to know is that the fictional Dr. Gregory House, played by British actor Hugh Laurie, is a medical genius. He heads up a team of brilliant diagnosticians at a New Jersey teaching hospital and each episode necessarily involves a quest, via many tests and approaches, to figure out what usually-obscure illness threatens the life of the patient du jour.
It’s Sherlock Holmes in an emergency room stuff – sort of a “what done it?”
A few years ago, I had some pain in my chest and went to a local emergency room. I was admitted to the hospital for some tests. They put me on a treadmill, wired me for sound, and later did this thing called a “chemical stress test.” That’s code for: “Injection of weapons grade uranium into patient to cause meltdown.” There was one more test they could have done. In fact, one doctor strongly recommended it. It is called cardiac catheterization. A doctor inserts a thin plastic tube into an artery or vein in the arm or leg. From there it can be advanced into the chambers of the heart or into the coronary arteries.
The test is really the gold standard when it comes to diagnosing a heart problem. It’s also apparently quite expensive. Alas, the good doctor who wanted to see it done was overruled by my HMO – I won’t mention the name of the company, let’s just say it sounds a little bit like “Permanent Czar.”
I passed all the tests – no heart problem – and headed home. But my wife and I had a nagging question: Would that heart catheterization test have been a smart thing to have?
Over the next several days I received calls and emails from friends all over the country and I began to notice an anecdotal trend. I heard testimony from people who had gone through what I had experienced, with all tests coming back fine, only to do the heart catheterization and find a serious arterial blockage requiring emergency surgery.