Sunday, October 11, 2009

Call 000! Wait, no, don't call 000!

The US health system is screwed up because the incentives are screwed up. Doctors want to make as much money as possible. Insurance companies want to pay as little as possible. And patients want as much health care as possible.

The Australian health system is screwed up in pretty much the same way-- just replace "insurance companies" with "the government".

I see the evidence every day on TV here. The Queensland government is running public service announcements encouraging people think twice before calling 000 (the emergency services number in Australia):
Why? Because if you give people something for free some of them will abuse it. In college we had free rolls of toilet paper in the communal bathrooms, and people came up with all sorts of creative uses for them (computer monitor stand, toothbrush holder and, of course, halloween decorations). Give them free paramedic service:
Common minor complaints where QAS paramedics are called to attend
• minor cuts and abrasions
• tooth ache
• ear ache
• boils
• ant bite
• can’t sleep
• hungry

Does asking people nicely keep them from calling the paramedics when they're hungry? The ad campaign started in September of 2008, but they've got a funny way of figuring out whether or not it is effective:
The success of the campaign will be measured by Computer Aided Telephone Interviews (CATI) surveys conducted both pre and post campaign by Roy Morgan Research. The evaluation aims to measure shifts in attitudes towards calling Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance for non-serious issues.
Gee, wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective to just see if people call less? They're already measuring the number of non-urgent incidents per 1,000 population. Their target for June 2008-June 2009 was 51-53, which they missed-- actual was 56.

I bet the number next year is higher.

1 comment:

Chris Mountford said...

You know that a lot of non-emergency health care is also free (visiting emergency departments of hospitals and visiting a doctor), so it's true that people use an ambulance because they don't have another free option.