What’s the point of going to a specialist, a professional, an expert, and asking for help, but then not following the advice given? If your mechanic told you to put a cup of something in your car once a week for the next four weeks to avoid having to replace your engine, you’d do it, wouldn’t you? Yet when people go to the doctor, they often ignore instructions, and we all pay the price.

A PricewaterhouseCooper study (performed by their Health Research Institute in 2008) shows that 100 BILLION dollars could be saved each year if people would just follow the doctor’s orders. What sort of things are we talking about? One example – people failing to complete their course of medications – and then returning with worse symptoms or complications. Just because you feel better doesn’t mean the disease is gone. It’s important to take the full course of antibiotics prescribed, and yet many people take just 2-3 days and then stop.

At other times, the doctor’s instructions are disregarded completely, resulting in much more complicated conditions. The old joke about the patient coming in saying “My elbow hurts when I do this” and the doctor replying “Then stop doing that,” is all too accurate these days. When your doctor says you should stop smoking, that’s sound advice. When he tells you that you MUST stop smoking, he’s specifically addressing your individual health… and yet people ignore both instructions. So when you go to an expert, do yourself and us all some good and follow the doctor’s orders!

The abuse of ERs as a substitute for health care is much like the “I’ll gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today” line. People who can’t afford to go to a doctor’s office quickly head to the E.R. This is costing us billions! How many billions? About $14 billion a year, in 2008. Going to the ER for a sore throat (instead of a doctor’s office) costs more and saps already thin resources.

This Congress passed a $787 billion stimulus bill. Within that bill is an allocation of $1 billion for wellness and prevention and $650 million for prophylactic programs to fight the growth of diseases like obesity and diabetes (conditions that create massive additional costs). Clearly, prevention and early treatment can save a lot of money.

This is the second of three articles on where to trim the fat. If you’ve not yet read the first article, you can find it by clicking here. Check back later this week for the final article and conclusions!