I think we need to change from being a passive consumer society when it comes to health care to being an active consumer society. Our health care model now is based on waiting until a person is sick or injured and then going to a health care provider to be fixed. This is not realistic and more expensive. This only works in the case of acute illness or accident. How could the system change?
It can first of all change on the individual level. We can take responsibility for our own health. Prevention and education is important. Knowledge is power. We each of us needs to know our risk factors for disease and take steps to lessen them. If we have a chronic disease we need to understand how to best manage it. The obvious for all of us is exercise and nutrition. We would not put the wrong fuel in my gas tank but we sometimes are thoughtless about what goes into our bodies. Most people do not even drink enough water.
Record keeping and coordinating of medical care. As individuals we can keep a record from all our doctors. I grew up in a Navy family I had one medical record I kept with me and took to all appointments for over twenty years. I try to do this now. I also keep a list of all medical providers, conditions I have, medications, and emergency contacts in my wallet. I also have a list of conditions, surgeries and medications I have been on in the past for new doctors.
I try to understand each condition I have so that I can manage it. I realize that even when a medication is expensive it is less expensive than not taking it and ending up needing more expensive care such as hospitalization if I do not take it. My goal with three chronic illness is to stay away from the ER, hospitals, and to keep doctors visits to a minimum. My pharmaceuticals which with copays are hundreds a month help me with that goal.
How could the government, health insurance companies, and health care providers change us to an active consumer society? First they need to realize it is less expensive to provide prevention, education, and chronic disease management, including expensive pharmaceuticals, than it is to wait until the patient is really sick. Now the system spends most of its resources when the individual has not had prevention, education, and disease management and ends up in the ER or hospital. Also having coordination of care would be beneficial. Even with in a medical system communication breaks down. We need to update technology. There is a lot of needless redundancy. I have a hard time getting medical records transferred between providers. What if you are in accident and unconscious? It takes time to get a medical history. Electronic records which could be retrieved by an ambulance or ER with medical conditions, medications, allergies could save your life.
I take responsibility for my wellness. I keep records up to date. I make sure all my providers know what treatments and medications I am on. I take my medications as prescribed. I take responsibility for dieting and fitness. I educate myself on all my conditions. I even have written treatment plans I can look at to see what steps I need to take in any situation. By doing all the above I have kept my health care costs to a minimum and avoided hospitalization with three severe chronic illnesses. I still spend 40% of our income on health care, but it could be worse.
Wishing you a healthier 2010.