The healthcare industry is spending a lot of time thinking about how to encourage patients to help themselves. For example, how do healthcare professionals help people care about how many calories they consume a day, what type of food they purchase, and whether they sit in front of the television at night or go for a walk? These are simple steps towards preventive care.
As discussed in my July blog post, consumerism in healthcare, the majority of medicine is practiced on the concept that once a health issue occurs, health professionals react and treat the problem. If we can change this model to encourage preventive care instead of curative care, we can build a healthier society.
An example of a curative care is dieting. If you are dieting, by definition, you have not made a lifestyle change. Dieting is like a rollercoaster ride; your weight goes up, you get serious about losing weight, and for eight to ten weeks, you do. Oftentimes though, you fall back into old habits, and the weight returns. Instead of dieting, how can we support patients in making positive lifestyle changes that last?
The opportunities to help build a healthier society lie in improving health outcomes, enhancing quality of life, and lowering costs. True prevention means fewer patients needing hip and knee replacements and fewer aortic stent graphs. This in turn means an improved quality of life and significant cost reduction for patients and our healthcare system. From a patient perspective, true prevention means more time spent going on long walks and playing with our kids.
Awareness is essential
Preventive medicine is focused on helping prevent clinical visits and procedures due to illness. Healthcare prevention uses tools such as diet, exercise, and lifestyle change to reduce diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer. One way this is accomplished is through education; explain to patients why it is important to be healthy, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and have an exercise regimen. For children, this education may come from schools but parents need take an active role in their child’s health education as well. For adults, this education can be found in digital health applications, health trackers, workplace wellness programs, and on social media. Helping patients become consciously aware of their health metrics, such as height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1C, is a vital part of this education.
Prevention is an important piece of our population health picture. Preventive care is an opportunity to positively influence population health. Take type 2 diabetes as an example. Typically type 2 diabetes stems from obesity and can result in nerve pain, amputation, heart disease, and stroke. These can be costly and debilitating health issues. As a healthcare system, we need to identify patients who are at risk for getting diabetes and engage them in preventive measures.
If you figure the cost of someone who gets type two diabetes versus the cost of preventing the disease on the front end, you realize the focus should be on prevention to avoid costly treatment and impairing health issues. Healthcare must begin to look at the cost over time, the effects on quality of life, and the patient outcomes in order to seize opportunities to prevent instead of treat disease.
A population health shift can happen, but it has to be purposeful. It will take all of us working together to influence population health. Healthcare is very personal. We are talking about how people live their lives and changing that is difficult. Our challenge and opportunity lies in better educating our population about cost, quality of life, and outcomes so they can become more invested in their health.
Dave Reed is currently Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Healthcare Business Solutions for Cook Medical. With over 30 years of life science industry expertise, Dave holds an MBA from California Miramar University and serves on the boards of the Strategic Marketplace Initiative (SMI) and the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Supply Chain Academy Advisory Board and is a professional member of the Association of Healthcare Resource & Materials Management (AHRMM).