Need An MRI? Just Stay Put

Back in January, Bernie Sanders attempted to guilt his opponents into agreeing with his view on the need for socialized healthcare.  He tweeted to his 4.5 million+ followers, “People go to the doctor because they’re sick, get a diagnosis from their doctor, but they can’t afford the treatment. How crazy is that!”

To which conservative political pundit, Ben Shapiro, responded, “I go to a fancy store to check out a piece of furniture, can’t afford it. That’s totally crazy!”

The comparison that Shapiro was trying to make, which he expounded upon in the piece he penned following his hastily (or, as he put it, “snarkily”) written reaction, was that medical treatment, like a chair, is a commodity, not a right, and there are commodities in life that we simply cannot afford.  (Sounds harsh, but it isn’t.  Read on.)

Or, at least medical treatment should be a commodity, Shapiro says.  Because if it were, he claims, it would actually be more affordable, and more people, like Sanders’ sick friend, would be able to get the treatment they need.

Or, at least it should be more affordable.  The problem is that current regulation of the healthcare system by the US government, which is based upon the notion that medical treatment is a right that each citizen deserves, rather than a commodity, results in expensive over-demand in health services.

If it really were treated as a commodity, Shapiro argues, then the nature of a profit incentivized market would produce a quality driven system that offers desirable service at the right price.  While some will be able to afford to spend more, such as on a specialized doctor or for advanced equipment, everyone will at least be able to receive the appropriate and necessary treatment to deal with their diagnosis.

As an example, let’s take the cost of an MRI exam.  Although the cost can vary widely from hospital to hospital, a sample was taken from different cities throughout the US, and it turns out that the average cost to have an MRI is a whopping $2,550.  By Ben Shapiro’s reasoning, it is the government regulated insurance institutions, which are deeply intertwined with the healthcare system, that prevent the competition from lowering patient costs.

In truth, many factors go into determining the amount a hospital will charge.  Most significantly, the cost of the machine itself (typically upward of $2 million), as well as the expense involved with maintenance and the staff required for its operation.  Additionally, the large MRI machine requires a designated room, and outfitting it with the necessary equipment and safety measures can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

And now to the point.

There is an Israeli company called Aspect Imaging that is working on a solution to all of this.  Aspect Imaging designs and develops low cost, desktop sized MRI imaging and NMR systems for preclinical, medical, and advanced industrial applications.  Company founder and CEO Uri Rapoport has pointed out that small MRI devices already exist but they have less power than the classic MRI scanning device, so the images they produce have a lower resolution. According to Rapoport, Aspect’s devices offer a higher magnetic force and resolution than existing devices.

Raising $30 million in their recent financing round  will enable them to complete development of their neonatal MRI and Stroke dedicated MRI system.  Their wrist-view and other point-of-care machines will allow a doctor to image the patient from the comfort of his own office instead of having to transfer him to a different wing.

The below comparison chart, taken from Aspect’s website, shows one benefit after another of their device over the MRIs that we’ve grown to know and loathe.

So while Bernie and Ben squabble in the US without getting anywhere, leave it to Israeli ingenuity to revolutionize the industry.

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