Seeing the Sum of All Parts
When his grandfather broke his hip, Brett Pinsky questioned the value of repairing it.
At work, Pinsky, a health economics and outcomes researcher at AbbVie, calculates the value of different medical decisions. Knowing on a professional level how patient experience must be weighed alongside more static information on risks and benefits, he initially thought that hip surgery may not be in his grandfather’s best interest.
“My grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and at the time he broke his hip, his life expectancy was only around three months,” he says. “I thought it might be better not to put him through surgery when it wouldn’t meaningfully extend his life or allow him to walk again, and instead just make him comfortable with medication.”
But then, Pinsky factored in how his grandfather’s dementia was affecting the situation: because he couldn’t remember breaking his hip, his grandfather kept trying to stand up, causing him terrible pain – making surgery the better option after all.
“At least when he went to get up, the pain wasn’t from moving a broken bone, but rather post-operative stiffness and soreness,” Pinsky says. “That’s the impersonal nature of numbers, versus understanding what’s going on in real life. It changes the value equation.”
While the stakes aren’t usually this personal, Pinsky is faced with these complex equations every day – and understanding the real-world experience of patients like his grandfather is one of several essential components that must be taken into account if the true value of a medical intervention is to be defined.