How many decades has it taken for cardiologists, practitioners at the apex of medicine, to acknowledge that symptoms of heart disease for women may differ from those for men, and for general practitioners to address that fact? Older women die of heart disease in droves because they are treated too late or ineffectually, or they cannot get the referral. How long does it take for the public to catch on, or has it?
What is the percentage of women in lucrative cardiology and radiology practices? (Have you ever met a female cardiologist?) Who are the star patients of the new “concierge” cardiologists?
Women’s health-and-spirituality movements tend to bypass the system. Why play on an uneven field? This is not the same thing as insisting on quality care, however, or documenting unnecessary deaths due to systemic negligence. Who would support a study of gender bias in cancer detection? The American Medical Association? The American Academy of Family Physicians? The American College of Radiology? The American Society of Clinical Oncology? (Try an affirmative action head count on their boards of trustees. Then compare with The American College of Cardiology.) How about The National Institutes of Health, or The Centers for Disease Control? Physicians cannot acknowledge diagnostic error to their patients due to fear of lawsuits, they claim, so who is it who finally reports?
This is the one-two punch from the patient’s perspective (keeping in mind the gold standard in cancer treatment is early detection.) First, the physician brushes aside complaints and belittles patient concerns. Second, the insurance industry encourages referral madness, making it nigh impossible to get a qualified second opinion, or, in the case of breast cancer, even to know what that means.
Breast cancer patients are apparently familiar with this scenario, as are mothers of children with cancer. A chilling thought, indeed.
Who dies and who profits?
The most glaring disparity in health care delivery may be staring us right in the face. Worse yet, it may have nothing to do with the digital divide.