Mechanics vs. doctors

A group of neighbors got together over the weekend and while a few of us were talking the topic of mechanics and doctors came up and I had an aha moment over something one individual said. We were discussing a plethora of topics, but this one comparing mechanics to doctors was so spot on.

Think about this. You take your car in to get fixed, whether for its regular tune up or because you heard an odd sound. They take some time to explore the issue, and then before they do any work they let you know what the issue is, what they will have to do (if it ever makes any sense) and how much it is going to cost. You know right then your doom. Do you walk away with the cost of an oil change, or is time to get a new car? You might need new brakes, a new engine, or some other strange part you have never heard of.

Juxtaposition that with going to the doctor. You go to the doctor for a check-up or because something specific is bothering you. They tell you they need to run a bunch of tests. You wait for the results (days) and you then wait much longer (often weeks to months) to find out how much it is truly going to cost you. Even with good insurance you often do not know how much the different tests will cost you. Additionally, it depends on who does the tests. I have found that some places charge vastly different amounts for the exact same test. I guess a mechanic is similar in that different mechanics can charge different amounts for the same work. However, if all the doctor or lab is doing is taking our blood, and testing it how can there be such a vast different in cost? A lot of the costs have to do with what your insurance company will pay, what your specific plan covers, or if you hit your deductible.

How is it that you can get your car diagnosed and you can get the price, but you cannot get the price for what it might take to fix you? There should be more transparency of costs. Sort of like when you go to a restaurant and they show the calorie and fat content, the cost details for tests and doctor visits should be available to patients.

Would a change in this process start with doctor’s offices or with the insurance companies? What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Mechanics vs. doctors

  1. when i look at a car – i see discrete systems that are, for the most part, independent with little impact to the other systems other than its intended purpose. for example, your transmission’s heath will not impact your fuel/air mixture. your tires will not impact your oxygen sensors, etc. yes, if one fails, then the machine is on the side of the road with the hood up.

    the human body’s functions, on the other hand, are extraordinarily inter-dependent. trying to link to the above comparisons, your transmission (legs and leg muscles) can impact your fuel (o2 and sugar) given that your leg bones’ marrow produces blood cells. your feet (or tires) provide very detailed sensing via nerves that do talk to your balance system and your navigation systems (in your brain). lastly, your body is hugely parallel enabling redundancy where if one sub-system fails (a sense, a pore, a finger or fingers, a part of your brain, a kidney), our body has the ability to some extent to overcome the loss. we even can function with part of our bodies gone (a gland, large intestine, no hand, no hair). cars don’t – one gear, one swing arm, one radiator, one tire, etc and you’re calling AAA.


    • sorry – forgot to close the idea.

      when doctors go in, they also have an idea of what’s going on but the biggest barrier to an effective diagnosis is the person. many times, people’s perceived symptoms are being biased due to fear, inaccurate memory, improper linkage to the issue etc. Also, the current state of medical equipment is so much better than 20 years ago but they do not provide a clear lens into the human body. Lastly, with the above mentioned interdependent systems, you’ll never know how the body will react to the prescribed medicine. as a result, i find that doctors have to “stage” remedies which means that any initial prognosis is simply a starting point.


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