Health industry group: Replace psychiatrists with vending machines — Measure to reduce health care costs

By Alto Strata

Health industry group: Replace psychiatrists with vending machines
Measure to reduce health care costs

vending1 April 2014 Health Insurance Times (Dubuque, Iowa) A health care industry thinktank, US Health Insurance Consortium on Cost, advocates replacing psychiatrists and other doctors with vending machines to prescribe and dispense antidepressants.

“We believe this will cut the cost of psychiatric services significantly,” Uli Arnowsky, spokesperson for USHICost, said. “Our studies show the diagnosis and prescription process can be automated, with no loss in quality of care. Specialist costs are just not necessary for this type of treatment, and psychiatrists are overworked anyway.”

USHICost based its Psychiatric Diagnostic Screening Questionnaire (PDSQ) on the new psychiatric diagnostic manual DSM-5 and psychometrics research by Drs. David J. Kupfer and Robert D. Gibbons. It plans to make the PDSQ available online to health plan members. Answers would be captured in a database and analyzed to produce a recommendation for a prescription. A psychiatric nurse reviews the recommendations and authorizes the prescription, which is then attached to the patient’s electronic medical record.

Vending machines, in convenient medical center locations and on a secure network, would be stocked with the most common generic antidepressants.

“We prefer the generics,” Arnowsky said. “They’re part of the cost-cutting. Our studies show they’re just as effective as the name-brand drugs.”

According to Arnowsky, to get a prescription filled, a patient would input a health plan ID and a password at a vending machine. The machine would look in the database, dispense the authorized prescription, and charge the co-pay to a credit card on file in the patient’s health plan record.

“We really like the way this system keeps electronic medical records, too,” Aronowsky said. “It’s a win-win-win for all concerned.”

Patients reporting side effects would be advised to see their doctors, who could then adjust the prescription if needed.

“There’s a lot of trial and error in prescribing antidepressants already,” he said. “This system is no more error-prone than present prescribing practices. In fact, we put fuzzy logic in the system to rotate prescriptions among the antidepressants, because we’ve found doctors prescribe them in an almost random fashion. We built the human element right into the system — it thinks just like a doctor about these drugs.”

He stated that USHICost’s studies had shown diagnosis by PDSQ was at least as accurate as by doctors, including psychiatrists. “This will take a big burden off primary care physicians, too, who are bearing the brunt of prescribing antidepressants,” he noted.

Happy April Fool’s day from Alto Strata and Beyond Meds

Visit Surviving Antidepressants for support and information, the psych drug withdrawal board that Alto Strata founded. There you can find both information and support in coming off all classes of psych drugs.

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters