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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Jun 23, 2018

Sometimes I imagine quitting my job and declaring war on cost disease in medicine.

I would set up a practice with a name like Cheap-O Psychiatry. The corny name would be important. It would be a statement of values. It would weed out the people who would say things like “How dare you try to put a dollar value on the health of a human being!” Those people are how we got into this mess, and they would be welcome to keep dealing with the unaffordable health system they helped create. Cheap-O Psychiatry would be for everyone else.

Cheap-O Psychiatry wouldn’t have an office, because offices cost money. You would Skype, from your house to mine. It wouldn’t have a receptionist, because receptionists cost money. You would book a slot in my Google Calendar. It wouldn’t have a billing department, because billing departments cost money. You would PayPal me the cost of the appointment afterwards – or, to be really #aesthetic, use cryptocurrency.

The Cheap-O website would include a library of great resources on every subject. How To Eat Right. How To Get Good Sleep. How To Find A Good Therapist. The Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Workbook. The Meditation Relaxation Tape. But the flip side would be that Cheap-O appointments would be brutally efficient. If you had problems with sleep, I would evaluate you for any relevant diseases, give you any medications that might be indicated, then tell you to read the How To Get Good Sleep guide on the website. Boom, done. Small talk would be absolutely banned.

How little could Cheap-O charge? Suppose I wanted to earn an average psychiatrist salary of about $200K – the whole point of cost disease is that we should be able to lower prices without anyone having to take a pay cut. And suppose I work a 40 hour week, 50 weeks a year, each appointment takes 15 minutes, and 75% of my workday is patient appointments. That’s 6000 appointments per year. So to make my $200K I would need to charge about $35 per appointment. There would be a few added costs – malpractice insurance would probably run about $10K per year – but this is the best-case scenario.