Navigating the guagmire of modern healthcare: How to fight for your family’s health in 2020
Has Healthcare Quality Kept Pace with Healthcare Technology?
This is an important question to ask, because if an individual wants to make the best choice for their family they must know what their options are and how to evaluate the merits of each. The leader of every household wants what is best for their family, and for many Americans, foremost among such desires is the one for health and longevity in their loved ones. Luckily this desire is more readily made reality thanks to the evolution of healthcare in recent decades. In the world of 2020 there is more healthcare technology than ever before.
Diseases with historically tragic prognoses have become more manageable. High tech infrastructure facilitates entirely new types of healthcare quarterly, such as remote physicians who can consult patients from the comfort of their own home. And cutting edge health-data driven technology cultivates new potential through non-invasive tracking of individual health metrics, such as sleep trackers and products like the Fitbit which can monitor an individual’s heart rate throughout the day.
Consideration of this reality, however, does spawn a question. Has the quality of healthcare in America truly improved at the same rate as the aforementioned technological advances? Or has the quality of healthcare fallen short of matching adjacent progress? There is also the unfortunate reality to consider–wherein healthcare quality may have actually started moving in the opposite direction, representing an objective decrease in quality.
A Steep Barrier of Entry
These questions are difficult to answer, and there may not be any fully comprehensible answer at all. If you discussed the topic with ten people, you would likely get ten very different answers. And therein lies the problem. The sheer expansiveness in scope of the healthcare industry, the diversity of ideologies, and the variability in personal experience all contribute to a perceived barrier of entry where the average American consumer is simply confused by the complexity, overwhelmed by the abundance of options, or distrustful of the healthcare system altogether. Because of this, there seems to be a clear disconnect between Americans and the healthcare system.
United States Census statistics illustrate this divide in objective terms. In 2017 the number of uninsured Americans increased to 28 million, representing an increase of roughly 700,000 from the year before. These numbers were baffling at the time given the infrastructure and flexibility offered by new technology such as Obamacare. Regardless of the politics surrounding these facts, the truth remains that Americans had more options than ever before to choose healthcare, particularly for those who historically had been deterred by financial barriers–and yet for some reason, more people abstained from the process altogether than ever before. And this is not simply some gym membership, tens of millions of Americans are opting out of programs–on which their lives and wellbeing might quite literally depend.
The puzzle of why this happened has resisted the efforts of researchers nationwide, who sought to understand the motivations behind this nonparticipation. Some institutions seem unwilling to put in the effort required to provide the necessary data, while others cannot agree on the problem in the first place, and thus choose not to explore certain options, such as public distrust of certain healthcare institutions.
This is also due in part at least to the census data, which paints a confusing picture. Most (84.6%) of uninsured Americans are working age, 19-to 64-year-olds. Many of these Americans have jobs and come from many different socioeconomic backgrounds. Some groups seem disproportionately affected, but from a top down view of healthcare in America–using health insurance as the litmus test–suffice to say that the healthcare system is just simply not working as intended. Thus we have the strange reality where there is greater potential than ever before for the upkeep of personal health, but conversely there are negating factors that have scaled in parallel.
Acknowledging Healthcare in the Quagmire of Misinformation
For now it seems it is up to the individual to overcome the resulting confusion. Traditionally it has been the charge of institutionalized medicine to educate the public on how best to make use of such institutions. This is probably not the first time however, where the institution seems totally confused on how to reach the public. When compounded with the public’s general distrust of large corportized entities today, and even basic facts of life seem to be fodder for the ensuing chaos–where large groups of people adopt health science that was fabricated as clickbait.
According to statistics from the US Department of Health and Resources, this disconnect is leading to a general lack of health-conducive habits in Americans. So not only is the public disconnected from healthcare institutions, misled by misinformation, but it is also apparently living markedly unhealthy lives. Here’s some quick facts to illustrate the severity of the situation (sourced from HHS.gov).
- Only one in three children are physically active daily.
- Less than 5% of adults participate in physical activity each day.
- 1 in 3 adults receive the recommended amount of activity in a full week.
- 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
- More than 80% of adolescents do not have enough aerobic physical activity in their lives to meet the guidelines for youth.
- Children now spend more than seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen, watching TV, playing video games, etc.
- Typical American diets exceed the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars; refined grains; sodium; and saturated fat.
- Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.
While healthcare providers are seemingly at odds with each other ideologically, there is one fact on which they seem to agree with resounding clarity. The primary environmental factor in illness and disease is poor nutrition and poor physical activity. In other words, the above statistics indicate that there could not be a worse time for Americans to be disconnected from the healthcare options that could assist in the negative health outcomes, which are rapidly approaching many Americans whether they know it or not.
The Policies of Personal Health in an Impersonal System
The healthcare industry is so seemingly at odds with itself that leaders of the community are debating whether to do away with the fundamentals. For instance Ateev Mehrotra, a Harvard University Medical School professor of healthcare policy, argues that the requirement of the annual physical should be done away with altogether. The central tenets of competing philosophies can be divided into the two camps. On the one hand there is the belief that the healthcare industry needs to play a more active role in the lives of Americans and institute more interactive policies respectively. On the other hand, there is the group that believes such efforts are largely wasted, and that we should allocate the resources to areas of healthcare with more demonstrable returns. For example, removing the annual physical would save roughly $10 billion dollars annually.
How to Fight for Your Family’s Health
While policy makers debate the best approach to healthcare in America, our children are getting sick, our parents are dying too early, and our friends are setting themselves on paths with bleak outlooks. This is not to be purposefully histrionic, but to say that the current reality of healthcare in America is anything other than gloomy would be flatout denial.
Thankfully though there is nothing about this bleak reality that is not within purview of the individual to change. So here are the best tips for cutting through the misinformation and finding the care that you and your family need.
Choose the Right Type of Physician
You have three main choices: general practitioner (GP), doctor of internal medicine, and doctor of family medicine. A GP will be great for individuals looking for continuity of care in the long term and will be more likely to often atypical approaches such homeopathic medicine or other holistic practices.
A doctor of internal medicine will be the best option for an individual with special health needs and anyone with a disease or ongoing illness. A doctor of family medicine will be a great option. Here’s a more in-depth guide to choosing the best physician for you.
Take Advantage of New Tech
As mentioned in the introduction there are more ways than ever before for the individual to monitor his or her own health. This is why many policy makers argue for the shifting of more responsibility onto the public’s shoulders. Regardless of the validity of this sentiment, the reality is that you can save yourself a lot of money and become more in-tune with your body if you monitor it.
Monitor your weight, download a free sleep tracking app, and pick up a fitbit or something similar. You will be surprised at how quickly these tools enable a heightened awareness of health, which in turn can lead to making better use of healthcare. That is, you won’t know to go to the doctor unless you notice something is wrong, and often times it’s the most subtle symptoms which can be the most dangerous–and that’s where these instruments come in. They can help you identify your body’s natural functions, and identify abnormalities that might have otherwise progressed into something worse.
Make Use of Telemedicine
Ten years ago, the rural or secluded lifestyle was often an insurmountable barrier to traditional medicine. Today, however, there are a host of online options which allow you to meet with a healthcare provider through a two-way voice, text, or video chat, or combination of all three. Telemedicine professionals offer modern and dynamic approaches from mental health therapy, nutrition guidance, and wellness coaching.
New technology is also being developed to provide physicians with realtime biodata to cut down on the number of office visits that individuals with certain conditions have to make. Here’s a guide to telemedicine providers that operate in all fifty states and there are also state-specific providers listed as well.
In exploring the quagmire of modern medicine, the primary problem was that there is more potential in healthcare than ever before, but there are too many hindrances for individuals to fully take advantage. What results is a scarcity mentality in individuals, who feel like their health is too difficult to obtain, not to mention the difficulty to maintain. But this can be overcome if you and your family make use of the resources available to you. Is there a hiking trail near your house, or a group of weekend joggers in your neighborhood, or a local herbalist, or an acquaintance who offers nutrition coaching?
The point in asking these questions is that all the good advice in the world will fall short in an individual does not go out, make positive choices, and take advantage of all the amazing resources that are made available in the modern day. And reliance on a flawed healthcare system can be lessened by an increased focus on prevention in our personal lives. In a perfect world, modern healthcare would be more equipped to facilitate this process, but the health of ourselves and our families reigns supreme–even in this imperfect world.