Over the next month and a half, Americans will have a lot on their plates. And I dont just mean turkey and stuffing. The upcoming holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah and New Years) come with high expectations and, typically, high anxiety. Over those six weeks, we are expected to give thanks for what we have, fulfill the wishes of others and resolve to do better next year.
Applying this trio of holiday traditions to American healthcare, here are three reasons to be thankful for what we have now, along with three wishes and three resolutions for the future.
Im interested in knowing what youd put on the list. Add your thanks, wishes and/or resolutions for U.S. healthcare here.
1. Thankful For? Healthcare Technologies And Therapies.
There was a time, just a few generations ago, when the only defenses against injury and illness were the experience and intuition of doctors, along with a few early drug discoveries like penicillin and digitalis. Thats why, even as recently as the 1960s, American life expectancy was around 67 years, the average retirement age today. But thanks to the remarkable accuracy of todays diagnostic technologiesincluding CT, MRI, PET scanners, and hand-held ultrasoundsalong with therapeutic advancements in pharmaceuticals and surgery, life-expectancy is now approaching 79 years. Today, a woman reaching age 65 can expect to live, on average, until age 87.
We can be thankful, too, that the future of med-tech looks bright. Our understanding of the human genome is opening the door to highly personalized treatments. DNA alteration is close at hand, making it conceivable that we will someday eliminate diseases like sickle cell anemia. Meanwhile, the visual recognition power of artificial intelligence has already surpassed the abilities of the human eye in areas like radiology and pathology.
Wish For? Smarter Applications.
Many newer medical technologies are solutions in search of a problem. For example, high-priced home monitoring devices can send hundreds of blood glucose readings and serial heart tracings directly to doctors. But physicians dont want steams of data clogging their computer systems.
I wish we had technology that would dispense medical advice to patients rather than generate redundant and unsolicited data for doctors. Such technology exists. Devices could reassure patients with chronic diseases that theyre OK (thus preventing unnecessary worry and doctor visits) or they could tell people to call their physicians office for medical intervention, enabling faster care when necessary. Whats missing isnt the tech, its the courage. Tech companies and their CEOs are unwilling to assume the legal risks that come with having a medical device label slapped on their products.
Resolve To? Use What Works.
The most effective medical technologies on the market today arent what most of us consider sexy or exciting. But they work extremely well. In the year to come, lets resolve to offer up and use available technologies to increase quality, lower healthcare costs and improve the effectiveness of care we provide and receive.
Video visits and secure email are simple, inexpensive technologies that save doctors and patients time without compromising quality. Likewise, todays computer systems can allow people to schedule appointments online and check their lab results. And yet, the majority of patients still dont have access to these digital tools. To avail ourselves as patients, well need to demand them. And if we do, use of healthcare technologies like these will become the rule, not the exception.
2. Thankful For? Modern Healthcare Delivery.
Technology and therapeutics arent the only things making our lives better. Preventive care and chronic-disease management are, literally, lifesavers.
Though cardiologists, oncologists, surgeons and other specialists sit atop the healthcare hierarchyrevered for pulling patients back from the brink of deathlets give our biggest thanks this year to the primary care physicians who keep us off the operating table and free of heart disease in the first place.
Physicians (and physician groups) who prioritize prevention are able to reduce our chances of dying from heart attack, cancer and stroke by up to 50%. Primary care doctors do the often unrecognized things that have a big impact on our lives, from prescribing medications that lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes to offering convenient at-home cancer screening tools like FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test), which can replace invasive and uncomfortable colonoscopies for many patients.
Wish For? Government Assistance.
Great physicians arent enough. Whether doctors achieve superior results depends a lot on how their practices are structured and reimbursed. Studies show that patients benefit most when their physicians work collaboratively in high-performing medical groups that are integrated with hospitals. Theres also a significant bump in quality that comes when doctors are paid for the outcomes they achieve, not solely the quantity of care they provide.
The government can be a driving force in moving American medicine toward this better model of care delivery. Legislators can provide added financial assistance to doctors who wish to form Accountable Care Organizations and make it possible for physicians to earn as much for helping patients avoid heart disease as they do for treating a heart attack. Moving the nations reimbursement model away from fee-for-service to prepayment via capitation is the right thing to do for patients and doctors. Government assistance in this area would be a wonderful gift toward helping us get there.
Resolve To? Look In The Mirror.
Physicians need ask themselves how consistently theyre using medical science to improve patient care. And, if not always, why not? Data analytics and evidence-based approaches have the potential to transform care delivery, giving all doctors the tools and knowledge to treat patients as effectively as the best providers in the country. And yet, many physicians have yet to embrace them.
Let this be the year we resolve to control hypertension, eliminate colon cancer, prevent heart attacks, reduce smoking and fight obesity. Lets stop over-prescribing opioids. Lets avoid prescribing expensive brand-named drugs when there are equally effective generics. And, as patients, lets resolve to take full advantage of preventive services (and listen to our doctors when they encourage more exercise and healthier food choices).
3. Thankful For? The Doctor-Patient Relationship.
For many patients, particularly of younger generations, convenience is the most important factor when seeking healthcare. A 2018 study by Virginia Commonwealth University Health System indicates 61% of patients would switch doctors to get an appointment faster. This trend is understandable. Young people are generally healthier and have fewer medical needs. But when our health takes a turn, its vital to have a doctor we can trust. The bond between a physician and a patient remains an essential part of medical practice; its roots tracing back more than five millennia. Inside a doctors office, we undergo a profound human experience: trusting another person with our body, our secrets and our life. Lets celebrate this powerful relationship.
Wish For? The Human Touch.
According to one occupational study, physicians spend 49% of their workday on a computer and just 27% of their time on direct clinical face-time with patients. As a result, doctors and patients are growing frustrated. I wish congress would force electronic health record vendors to open their application processing interfaces (APIs) to third party-developers, thus allowing new companies to create apps that simplify and improve the EHR user experience. This would give doctors and patients more time together, rather than being separated by a computer screen.
Resolve To? Replace Sick Care With Healthcare.
If we want to go from a system of sick care to a true healthcare system, physicians will need to expand the doctor-patient interaction. As we well know, good health is not an exclusively physical state. We can resolve to improve our nations overall health by acknowledging mental health as a medical problem and encouraging clinicians to ask patients about this aspect of their lives. As part of that effort, we must eliminate the stigma associated with seeking psychological help and ensure we treat mental illness with the same intensity and commitment as we do cancer or heart disease.
The holidays are a time to celebrate and be with those we love. Theyre also the perfect time to start turning our healthcare wishes and resolutions into reality.
Originally posted here:
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