In the U.S. today, healthcare is largely event based. Joe Patient has a heart attack, goes to the hospital, gets an angioplasty and a coronary stent placed, recovers in the hospital, and then goes home. Sounds simple enough. Historically, doctors and hospitals have been paid for each of these services they provide.
However, this model of healthcare is extremely expensive, and costs are only going up. Preventing patients from needing the hospital in the first place is the way to lower costs, but accomplishing that will require a significant change in thinking from event-based healthcare to preventive care.
Preventive healthcare, in an ideal world, would mean that Joe Patient could skip the heart attack all together. Joe would have to be invested in his healthcare, both mentally and financially, be educated on lifestyle choices that may contribute to bad heart health, and be motivated to make better choices about his health. Ultimately, taking preventive measures is cheaper than a heart attack.
As an industry, we’ve been trying to figure out preventive health for a long time. Twenty-two years ago our founder, Bill Cook, was struggling with this issue as he looked for the best way to provide healthcare to his employees. He ultimately decided that preventing illness and disease would lower costs and result in healthy employees, so he opened the Cook Family Health Center in 1993. However, we’ve learned that preventive healthcare requires several factors in order to be successful.
One of these factors is access. Healthcare today is not convenient or accessible for a lot of people. Appointments have to be made days in advance, time with the doctor is kept to a few minutes, and trips to the pharmacy can be nightmarish. If healthcare were easier to access, with a provider and pharmacy available quickly and in one place, then going to the doctor would no longer be the hassle it is now. We’re starting to see this model become more popular as walk-in clinics open in our local retailers and drugstores.
Another factor is education. Joe Patient needs to fully understand his health and what he can do every day to prevent major events, like heart attacks, from happening. This sounds easy enough. But, we all know that diet and exercise can drastically reduce our chance of developing disease, and how many of us order the burger instead of the salad more than occasionally?
Which leads to investment. How can Joe Patient be motivated enough to make the best decisions for his health? This probably will be the most difficult question to answer, because motivating patients has to be done carefully. If it’s too overbearing, it will only dissuade patients, and if it isn’t impactful enough, then it won’t result in behavioral shifts.
We don’t have all the answers to these questions yet. But, our experience with the Cook Family Health Center has taught us that preventive health can be successful in a clinic setting. Over the past 22 years, the clinic’s costs have risen with the market but not nearly at the pace of some of the other care centers in town. We wholeheartedly believe that giving patients access and education and requiring some investment on their part will lead to a more cost-effective preventive health model.
David Reed is currently Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Healthcare Business Solutions for Cook Medical Incorporated. With over 30 years of life science industry expertise Dave holds an MBA from California Miramar University and serves as a member of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Supply Chain and Global Management Academy Advisory Board.