“An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” goes the old saying. Well, after 18 years working in the healthcare industry, I know too well what keeps patients away from our doctors.
Regardless of your age, educational, economic, social, ethnic or racial backgrounds, we all have experienced, either as patients or when caring for a loved one, the health crisis our healthcare system is undergoing.
Just like our own health, several factors impact the health of our healthcare system in the U.S. One of these significant factors is our aging population. The Baby Boomer generation is creating a tsunami wave of Medicare-eligible beneficiaries each day: according to the National Council on Aging, 10,000 Americans become Medicare eligible each day and will continue to do so over the next 10 years. In 2014, 54 million people became Medicare eligible per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). However, there is also a physician shortage in the U.S. AND fewer physicians are accepting Medicare insurance due to physicians’ significant increasing operational costs and flat to decreasing reimbursement for Medicare services.
Another factor is the high cost of paying for healthcare services regardless of whether you have health insurance. According to the Office of the Actuary at CMS, in 2012 overall healthcare costs for our nation was at nearly 20% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). What does this mean? Investopedia.com explains that “GDP is one the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy…when the economy is healthy, you will typically see low unemployment and wage increases as businesses demand labor to meet the growing economy.” Further, according to the July 11, 2013 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, “the answer matters greatly to physicians, federal and state governments, businesses, and the general public. The answer will determine the type and extent of care that physicians can provide to their patients…”
So, what’s next? There are several approaches to “treating” and fixing our healthcare system in the U.S. Some of my colleagues and I have been working on initiatives for decades as we predicted that the state of our healthcare system would be in dire straits in the 21st century. One approach is to start with how and what we train our future physicians in our medical schools. An innovative example is the construction of the new medical school in Austin. In an online article (link: http://www.utexas.edu/news/2015/03/16/design-institute-for-health/?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=UTAustinSocial) published March 16th as part of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, the University of Texas at Austin announced the creation of the first-of-its-kind “Design Institute of Health” which will be “dedicated to applying design thinking and creative solutions to the nation’s healthcare challenges…” Stacey Chang, Executive Director, also states that “in healthcare, there are endless opportunities to rethink products and systems so they better serve people who need them.” That’s an apple for health that I can take a bite of!