Making Wellness Pay
Preventative medicine is under-recognized and sorely needed in our modern society. There is so much focus on treating diseases and conditions that people already have, but few are aware or able to take responsibility for their own health and wellness because of a lack of accountability, a lack of knowledge, and a lack of preventive and management care counseling from trusted physicians. Although preventative medical measures are not supported by our current medical system, many doctors are realizing that health epidemics in the west such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes are often easily prevented with the right lifestyle amendments.
In ancient China, patients paid doctors to keep them well. Some patients had hereditary conditions or took poor care of themselves, of course. Still, the system encouraged prevention, often cheaper and more sensible than treatment after an illness or disease has spread. There is really no reason why we should backslide from the knowledge that ancient peoples already discovered. If we could shift focus to education, continuous counsel, and preventative measures for health initiatives, instead of drugs that might or might not help after the condition presents itself, then our society would be healthier and wealthier.
Expense in America
One of the problematic elements of American medicine is that the expense of medical counsel, prescription medications, and treatment options are so expensive that they often cripple the citizens paying for them. Preventative medicine could change that problem for the better, since catching problems early will make health care costs drop for our society. This is especially important since our economy is down and out, and many people are suffering from chronic illnesses. If we are to have a social health system that people are paying into, it makes more sense to use less expensive methods that are more effective than our current health methods.
When shifting the paradigm of health care in the West, it will be important to consider what the current state of affairs is, and deal with the problems that are present in the here and now before moving to a new and more cost effective system. One way to do this is to directly manage patients with chronic disease, in order to avoid further complications from their illness, and lower costs still more for them, for doctors, and for taxpayers. Focusing on education and maintenance for the health of those people who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes will keep costs low, and help individuals become more healthy.
Another option is to reward the physicians who are working towards preventative care, and really helping their patients. Many doctors are frustrated with the current system, but also see little incentive to work against it, since they often receive reward from pharmaceutical companies to prescribe treatment options. However, in certain ACOs, Accountable Care Organizations, physicians receive both fee-for-service for offering treatment to a patient and pay-for-performance when they do preventive counseling or chronic disease management with their patients.
Paying for performance saves money for the patient, for the tax payers, and also for the physicians, because patients avoid costly acute care and hospitalization. Overburdening of hospitals, which are often times filled to capacity, would also be prevented when people pay for performance, maintenance, and preventive medicine. Not only does it make more sense monetarily to focus on prevention and management, but the health system will become more rewarding for patients and healthcare professionals than it is currently.
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