The topic of healthcare in America is a massive and complex one. It is a topic that I may address with multiple posts in this blog. What I’m going to focus on today is the term and its potential definitions.
When I think of the term “healthcare”, I envision a system that is committed to keeping people in an optimal state of health. I see a system that is proactive and supportive of a variety of wellness and preventative measures, including such things as medical screenings of various types, exercise programming, nutritional consultation, counselling services, etc. A true healthcare system utilizes the technology we have available today (information access, communication, electronic medical records, etc.) to deliver interventions that are heavy on the healthy end of the “health-illness” continuum.
Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric we continually hear from the government, insurance companies, and major employers, we do not have a healthcare system in this country, at least not to the potential of what we are capable. What we have is an “ILLNESS-CARE” system, that is set up to trigger health service provision (medical and other related or allied fields such as physical therapy, etc.) after the onset of illness or disability. It is a repair-shop analogy and one that waits for the most part to fix the body after it is broken. There are some parts of this illness care system which are necessary, and you can’t actually prevent every potential incident that happens in the lifespan. For example, emergency medicine, surgery, and various acute care services in this country are the best in the world and we do it well. But we can keep our population healthier and cut costs in our system if we shift not only our thinking, but our funding.
The point I am trying to make is that this country needs greater governmental and employer support of wellness behaviors. We need incentives such as bonuses and tax breaks that reward the healthy people in our population, and this model has been proven to reduce cost. Keeping a healthy person healthy, through ongoing support of wellness services, has been proven to cost significantly less than waiting for a person to get ill or injured and then intervening. We are inundated with that data almost daily.
Insurance companies need to be willing to cover more services that are truly additive to an individual’s health, and not because they are associated with a diagnostic code that delineates dysfunction. Currently, insurance companies will hardly pay for a procedure if it does not have a “breakdown-related” diagnostic code associated with a claim submission.
Citizens must become more empowered in their own health management. The need to take greater ownership for personal health is necessary in the American population. It is not somebody else’s responsibility to keep me healthy. It’s mine! It is my and our responsibility to maintain personal health. By combining a greater amount of self-directed health maintenance and promotion, with modest funding and incentives, we can reduce a significant volume of unnecessary, and costly, healthcare appointments and services. We don’t utilize the training and expertise of most health service providers to their potential and we can benefit greatly from doing so. I know I’m preaching to the choir on this, because if you’re reading this blog, you don’t need much convincing.
In summary, we have outstanding service providers across the board in this country, whose interventions are excellent, but we are not using their abilities in the most effective manner. We continue to focus on treating illness and not building health. A fundamental shift in thinking among all parties is needed to maximize health and quality of life, and to drive down costs.