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Physicians weigh in on the business of health care

Sept. 9, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Physicians will be in the spotlight during an all-day conference Saturday, Sept. 25, at Western Michigan University that will promote awareness of the importance of health care and overall well-being of Americans while exploring health care's business side.

Sustaining the Business of Health in America is the focus of the conference, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in Schneider Hall's Brown Auditorium and will include remarks by WMU President John M. Dunn. The conference is being offered free of charge and will let doctors and other providers have the floor in discussions about why health care is so expensive in the United States, why the cost is rising so quickly and what new legislation passed by Congress--legislation crafted not by doctors, but by lawyers--will do.

"For the first time, I'm trying to bring to this conference physicians as speakers, to hear the physicians' opinions," says Dr. Andrew Targowski, WMU professor of business information systems, director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices and conference co-chair. "The public may not know that those bills are designed mostly by lawyers, and physicians are rarely consulted about health care."

Physicians will join others in a rare presentation mix that also includes business leaders, educators and information technology professionals. Keynote speakers include Dr. Tom George, state senator for the 20th District and a former gubernatorial candidate, who will speak on "Examining the Health Care Reform Bill, 2010," and local family practice physician Dr. Gary Ruoff, who will address "What Is Happening to Caring Physicians?" Dunn will speak on "The Medical School and Revival of Kalamazoo," while Targowski's talk is titled "Well Being, Wisdom and Health Care." Local heart surgeon Dr. Michael Khaghany will be among those serving on a panel of experts.

"Without the input from primary care physicians, any health care program cannot be successful," says Ruoff, a conference co-chair.

Health care is a huge business, Targowski says. At $2.4 trillion each year--three times the budget for the U.S. Department of Defense--it is the largest business in America. But monumental problems with the system remain.

Health care's high cost is exacerbated by large and disproportionate administrative costs, the soaring price of malpractice insurance and unnecessary procedures triggered by the threat of often-groundless lawsuits, Targowski says. Also contributing to the problem are expensive, end-of-life procedures that don't so much save lives as extend the process of dying.

Still another problem involves the inadequate compensation paid by insurers, particularly for primary care physicians, which has resulted in a persistent dwindling of the pool of family doctors, Targowski adds. That trend is sure to become a much larger problem in the years ahead.

"The family physician is disappearing right now," Targowski says. "Only 2 to 3 percent of medical students sign up for family practice specialization because their services are very poorly paid by any kind of insurance company."

The conference also will feature exhibits of medications, products and systems as well as a best papers competition open to business professionals, faculty and students. The event is sponsored by WMU's Haworth College of Business Center for Sustainable Business Practices and the WMU's new Center for Health Information Technology Advancement.

For more information, visit wmich.edu/business/healthcare.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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