The future of medicine is based on wellness and life-enhancing therapies, rather than the treatment of disease (dis-ease) and illness. Rather than fixing or repairing damage, more attention and focus is being placed on keeping people well and avoiding “sick” visits. Additionally, patients increasingly expect expanded access to a variety of medical care, information and knowledge about their own health, and ways to care for themselves.
So, how does the current care delivery process survive in this new future? How do hospitals, primary care practices, physicians and specialist groups maintain a presence and purpose that is both relevant and future-based? How do we create a platform whose very foundation is rooted in keeping people away from doctors’ doors?
Hospitals and other medical providers will need to transform themselves in order to meet the demands of this changing marketplace. For health care providers, this requires a shift in how this reality occurs for them: instead of a challenge (or worse, impending doom), this change in demand can occur as an opportunity. The shift toward demand of preventative medicine can be seen as an opportunity for the following reasons:
- Several factors have created an abundance of demand for health care. This includes a staggering aging population, 92% of which have one or more chronic health conditions that require regular care. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act enabled 20 million previously uninsured Americans to require health insurance, creating a huge pool of new patients who will now seek care. On the supply side, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated there will be a shortage of up to 90,000 physicians by 2025. This predictable disequilibrium in supply vs. demand threatens to diminish the quality of patient care. Preventative medicine could be the answer in restoring this balance, as it translates into less sick or diseased patients needing intensive chronic care.
- Preventative medicine is well-served by the innovation, as well as greatest disruptor of traditional health care, that the world is now facing: telemedicine. Telemedicine offers a host of benefits including decreasing wait time, eliminating the need to be in a hospital which holds the risk of contracting harmful germs, providing access to care for hard-to-reach patients, and more. Telemedicine is well-positioned to provide preventative care because patients seeking this type of care are less likely to have a specific issue that needs to be examined in person. Thus, taking on preventative care is a way for hospitals and physicians to embrace the innovation of telemedicine, rather than be disrupted by it.
- When patients become more aware of their health, the demand for services providing diagnosis and wellness checks will increase. Thus, the traditional care provided by hospitals is not obsolete.
Through the simple power of looking, one can see the plethora of potential opportunities that increased preventative care presents. In order to manage this change successfully, hospitals and providers must alter the way this shift occurs for them. When this is accomplished, preventative medicine has the potential for our medical providers to achieve breakthrough results, while transforming the wellness of our population.