Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Let A Thousand Placebos Bloom

...Yet another quirky post title, but there's a good reason for it. What do I mean by placebos? Everyone occasionally needs relatively simple interactions with others, in order to feel better about any number of things. Yet not enough service product is really structured or valued on placebo effect terms. Of course, sometimes "simple" isn't enough, and concrete remedies or measures are warranted. That's when fear of sub par or at least inadequate service product, is a perfectly rational response.

The problem now, is that a highly educated healthcare marketplace has command of both realms. Hence we're often obligated to buy the full service bundle - exclusive education and all it entails, even for little more than a cold (Here's one exception). Or the patient may be seeking - and paying for - something far more specific, yet receives only a placebo effect. In today's marketplace, there's not a lot the average individual can do.

While low levels of disappointment are certainly not worth suing anyone over, there still needs to be marketplace designations for general health related concerns which don't require the same intensive training, accreditation, and overall approach. Why should everyone be expected to pay the going rate of a Master's degree or PhD level of education, for example, when all they really need is someone who will patiently listen to their stories and concerns? Another example: sometimes it's helpful to know how others alter their diets and lifestyle patterns to manage migraines. That's particularly true, when one does not have hundreds of dollars for prescription drugs to do the managing for them.

When I speak of (needed) market deregulation in this regard, some readers assume that doing so would only lead to worse service provisions. Indeed, under some circumstances that could happen. However, deregulation is not just about getting rid of procedures which prove "inconvenient" to special interests - which is another matter entirely. Deregulation also has the potential to free up knowledge use pathways, so that people are able to create a more user friendly and natural services marketplace.

Just the same, rational fears re service mishaps, are a primary weapon in the arsenal which belongs to medical providers in the U.S. In the meantime this prevents a better, more efficient marketplace, for multiple healthcare options. Uncertainty plays its own role, in limiting healthcare product definition and service capacity. Even marginal changes such as allowing nurses and other aides to do more for patients, are easily blocked as a result.

I understand that of all the components of a free marketplace, the idea of nudging healthcare down from its lofty heights is the hardest sell of all. In circumstances of true uncertainty, every one of us wants the "real deal" - not something masquerading as the real artifact. Sometimes the difference is a matter of life and death. The problem is the degree to which subjective experiences get bundled with concrete problems, which may need a decade of skill honing to solve.

Skills set bundling issues present other problems as well. As a result (in the U.S.) alternative methods are generally only used, when someone who is trained in traditional medicine also studied alternative methods alongside regular activities. These providers are still the exception, rather than the rule. While this allows greater choice for the patient, it's quite limited. That's true both in the sense of where these doctors and nurses actually reside, and the time they have to provide the skill sets which the patient seeks. Thus, sought after skill sets are still routinely sidelined, in terms of both supply and demand.

Today, even when alternative skills sets are available, they may be deemed inadequate or even inappropriate in some settings. While we need more entrepreneurs of skills sets in every town and city, there are still hurdles to such individuals being able to set up practice. Mark Perry provides a wonderful Institute for Justice example, of a horse massage therapist who turned her love of horses into a business, only to be told that she could not do so. Hopefully the Institute for Justice will win this case, and Celeste Kelly will be allowed to remain in business in the state of Arizona.

Years ago I had an older horse which suffered from arthritis in the winter months. Fortunately, a local veterinarian knew acupuncture methods. While it was strange indeed to see my horse walking around the pasture with those long needles hanging from its winter coat, the animal certainly felt better afterwards, for weeks at a time. I was really glad that the veterinarian could do something that would actually help.

Let a thousand placebos bloom, and if some of them turn out to be relatively silly or seemingly dumb, let the average individual decide. Indeed, one's skills sets and offerings may not seem silly or dumb at all, to the next potential patient and/or customer. After all, one person's placebo is another person's cure. Even doctors have provided plenty of relief with placebos - why should they be the only ones who can do so?

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