Future of Healthcare
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
UNDERSTAND THE CHANGING WORLD OF HEALTHCARE
When I was growing up, my parents had a wonderful family doctor who inspired me to go into medicine. Dr. Meyers made house calls, answered our questions, calmed our anxieties and even handled emergencies. My dad’s employer provided medical coverage.
Way back in the 70’s and 80’s, healthcare was relatively simple, even when you were sick. There’s no escaping the reality that those days are gone forever. The ever changing, ever more complicated and costly world of healthcare and health insurance stymies the best of us. Deciphering insurance options; walk-in clinics vs. doctor’s offices; nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants vs. an MD; what drugs are safe; what tests are necessary?
Healthcare decisions are truly individual. They are based on who you are, how you are, where you live, the extent of your coverage, the policy regulations that govern your choices, the extent of your resources and numerous other factors. Your beloved primary care doctor that you recommend to your sister may not be available to her if she’s on a different insurance plan. One family’s experience can be another family’s nightmare. A major illness requiring extensive care may bankrupt a family previously on solid footing.
To navigate the healthcare road ahead, you must be prepared to make informed choices and decisions. As the landscape changes, it’s very likely that:
- You will be connected to a healthcare system called an Accountable Care Organization that will provide individual healthcare services, doctors and hospital services. The ACO’s will be paid for taking care of a patient population that may include you.
- You will be responsible for understanding your conditions and / or illness and given the opportunity to use new, sophisticated telemedicine services to communicate with your health care providers.
- You will see nurse practitioners and physician assistants rather than physicians for most of your routine care. Access to specific doctors will be managed by the healthcare system.
- You will be responsible for learning about disease, prevention and most other health matters. As a result, you’ll want to be an educated and informed consumer. For all of us, these new realities mean significant new responsibilities.
To protect our health and wellbeing we must:
- Stay informed. About changes in the healthcare system. About developments in medicine and technology, particularly if you or a family member has an ongoing condition. About healthcare options in your community. The Internet helps here.
- Establish working relationship(s) with your healthcare provider(s). Learn the names of everyone on the staff, understand what jobs they do, how they interface with your doctor and how they can help you.
- Keep track of your medical history and your family’s, including maintaining up-to-date personal health care records for everyone. You’ll need these in medical emergencies, if you change doctors or see a specialist for the first time. Fortunately there are a variety of resources available on the internet. I like to use WebMD and the Mayo clinic for great general information.
- Learn where you can obtain answers to questions about your overall health needs and / or specific conditions and diseases.
- Write down your questions and make notes about your issues before you call or appear at your doctor’s office. And, take notes on what they tell you.
- Know how and where to get emergency services.
- Understand your health insurers’ guidelines. Know what they will cover and what you’ll be responsible for.
- Communicate clearly with everyone in your healthcare and insurance networks. Be sure to document whom you spoke with and the date of the conversation.
Thinking about Dr. Myers makes me nostalgic and wistful. For a moment, I long for a simpler time. Then I think of the amazing developments in medicine and technology of the past three decades, and I’m glad to be here now. Reaching your wellness potential is a huge and wonderful accomplishment. One of the best ways to preserve the investment you made in yourself is to know how to take care of yourself in the future.