Everyone loves a bargain; that’s a cross-cultural phenomenon. People want to get as much as possible for their hard-earned money, whether it be dollars, pounds, or euros. So why do Americans consume so much more healthcare?

Despite dire rankings from the WHO of dwindling life expectancy in America (the subject of a future article), it seems that Americans are voracious of consumers of, well, just about everything. But, as David Woods points out in his article, “Are we getting too much medicine?”, there are wide variations within the US, which are not easily explained.

As health economists work to define the value of healthcare across various populations, it is worth exploring what motivates people – not just healthcare consumers, but also healthcare providers. It seems that not only do patients want more healthcare services, but doctors are more than willing to provide it, for a variety of reasons: financial gain, return on investment for a new piece of equipment, fear of litigation, quelling the nerves of a fearful patient, or simply practicing good medicine.

Health economics is defined as analysis of ‘the supply and demand for healthcare and provides a structure for understanding the choices made therein [emphasis mine].’(1)

One of the reasons I find health economics to be such an interesting field is that it requires the study of not only healthcare and economics, but also the psychology of how those choices are made. And that is how we determine the value of healthcare.

1. Walley T, Haycox A, Boland A, editors. Pharmacoeconomics. London, England: Churchill Livingstone; 2004.