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UTAH DOCTORS HELP KEEP COSTS DOWN

To the editor:

I appreciated the opportunity to talk with Deseret News medical writer Jan Thompson about some of the recent media perceptions relating to medicine and health care. However, in the article titled "Many doctors fleeing their feverish field," published March 9, there were some comments that require clarification.I was quoted as having accepted the early retirements of more than 15 doctors with the implication that these were physicians at the Salt Lake Clinic. What I said was that I had recently become aware of at least 15 doctors in the community who are choosing early retirement. These are not Salt Lake Clinic physicians. Additionally, the physician who left medicine to become an auto mechanic was not a Utah physician.

The article states, " . . . most of the public believes that doctors are in medicine for the fast buck." I indicated that some people may believe that doctors are in medicine for the fast buck but that, overall, the majority feel that their physicians are caring and compassionate medical practitioners.

Later in the article, the question is posed, "For instance, should doctors give everyone a liver transplant even if the survival rate is only 5 percent?" The actual question I posed was, "For instance, should doctors perform a liver transplant even if the survival rate for that specific patient might only be 5 percent?" (It must be emphasized that the survival rate for liver transplants is 80 percent, not 5 percent.)

The same paragraph continues, "Price suggests the standard should be: What health care can result in the greatest amount of good for the least amount of money." What I actually suggested the health-care goal might be is: "The level for health care that can result in the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people for the amount of money that society is willing to invest in health care."

My purpose in the interview was to respond to earlier articles in the media emphasizing the relative low cost of health care in Utah. These reports failed to give any credit to Utah physicians whose efforts have significantly contributed to Utah's lower health-care costs.

Some of the physician-influenced factors that impact Utah's low health-care costs are: Utah has one of the shortest hospital lengths-of-stay in the nation; Utah physicians have been pioneers in outpatient surgery, and Utah has one of the highest percentage rates for outpatient surgery in the nation; Utah physicians have historically had some of the lowest professional fees in the nation; Utah has been recognized as the state that is the most aggressive in weeding out unethical and unscrupulous physicians.

These factors, among many others, along with the healthy lifestyles of Utah people, contribute to Utah's relatively low health-care costs.

Richard R. Price, M.D.

Medical director

Salt Lake Clinic