The Health Status of U.S. Healthcare: What’s Next?

“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? 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: 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!

5 Replies to “The Health Status of U.S. Healthcare: What’s Next?”

  1. Hi Good article. I am one of those baby boomers and next year on the Medicare system.. However with good “genes and living a healthier lifestyle than most, my husband and I are not using the system yet as we remain healthy. We are also on a medical sharing program ( Samaritan Ministries International) that actually works better than any insurance program and pays for most of the medical bills. Thanks for the work you do in trying help fix and or repair the healthcare system in the US. Interested in your future communication.

  2. This is a great article that touches on the major reason that so many people do not go to a doctor. Insurance is sky high and people are going without to have other necessities they need. Hopefully, our next cabinet will be more willing to work with the pharmaceutical industry and our physicians and we will see some change in the healthcare industry.

  3. Samaritan Ministries is a healthcare alternative.. and it is not insurance and cost are lower —

  4. Right on target. I, too, am a baby boomer. We have got to be more proactive in keeping ourselves healthy so that we don’t need to rely on the healthcare system to sustain us. Yes, we are living longer, but are we living the quality of life that we’ve dreamed of? Only a small minority of people can afford to do so. We have a serious problem with how to care for our seniors. The financial burden is more than we can absorb. I look forward to your ongoing comments, Lilly.

  5. Hey Lilly – great article, huge issue. (As they say at UT – “what starts here changes the world” – so we have big expectations!)

    At this point it is worn out, but I’ll suggest the consumer in healthcare will be a “big” thing. As you point out, people are only now waking up to the reality that health insurance as it emerges is paying for something and hoping you never need it. Which leaves the consumer pushing health management further to the back burner. (Assuming it can get any further back for the average American.)

    Given deductibles and co-pays, mainstream medicine becomes less and less attractive to the person just trying to get by and keep up with all the routine demands, (and costs) of life. What emerges is “life” and “healthcare”. You live life and engage healthcare only when necessary.

    Clearly this is not the outcome we need. What we need is to drive the intersection of life and healthcare – monitoring and managing individual health must become part of our culture. In order for this to happen, healthcare must become convenient for the consumer. This is where opportunities for innovation become exciting. The challenge for those of us in healthcare, and those intrigued by the opportunity, but not yet part of the industry is to create the “consumer health experience”. What is the right mix of apps, devices, incentives, new points of care that are not separate but integrate into mainstream medicine that can engage consumers and enable them to succeed in managing health.

    It is an exciting time in healthcare, the burden is on us to not let 315mm potential health consumers down!

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