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Vital Signs

Then & Now

A reminder of the pace of change, and of timeless truths, from the Spring 1986 issue of this magazine:

Dr. Ross McIntyre, then director of Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center, wrote about a 1985 visit to the Soviet Union: "I learned that there were more than twice as many hospital beds per capita in the U.S.S.R. as in the United States . . . but that the percentage of the gross national product devoted to health was about one-fifth that of this country. The apparent discrepancies in statistics were resolved by the comment made by one observer that hospitals in the Soviet Union were 'dormitories' for people who didn't feel well."

Today, Russia spends 6.2% of its gross domestic product on health care, compared to 14.6% in the United States.

A reminder of the pace of change, and of timeless truths, from the 1970 Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital annual report:

In 1970, the MHMH Business Office had "close to 40 people taking care of" all financial services, using "machines that turn out hundreds of thousands of punch cards, giving us information we once had to write by hand." Especially in the area of patient accounting, the report explained, "we've come a long way. . . . When private insurance was first introduced, it caused a flurry! . . . It has taken a lot of ingenuity to keep up with the paperwork required by third parties."

Health-care finances, and the institution, are far more complex today; the same functions require 220 full-time-equivalent positions.

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