We’ve all heard it by now. We know that health care costs are increasing. We know that things will soon be “unsustainable” if our present health care practices continue. Interestingly, despite all the stimuli we receive through the mainstream media, it doesn’t appear that the US people care as much as they should.
People haven’t done enough to appreciate the cost issue. Aside from the general if-I-use-more-then-I-pay-more concept, I would guess that most people in the US haven’t looked at the connection between the use of health services and the cost of health services. For those who haven’t, it basically gets down to this: one’s unnecessary use of health care services raises both the individual cost of care, as well as national cost of care. This means that your choice to use an unnecessary amount of health services not only increases your costs, but my costs, too!
Understanding the factual basis that underlies the “cost conundrum” isn’t that simple, though. Researching the cost issue is complex, taking many hours, if not days, of research to appreciate. There are so many moving parts, and to grasp and make sense of these parts requires time and energy that, frankly, many people don’t have. In addition to raising a kid, reading for school and trying to stay ahead of life by working two or three jobs, who among the general population has the time to dive into the boring, fact-intensive literature that outlines why health care costs are such a problem in the States? I joke, but the problem is serious. The US people–the mass of health care consumers who do not subscribe to Health Affairs–cannot reasonably inform themselves about the basics of our health care (e.g., medical terminology, billing, etc.), let alone the costs of health care that have begun to financially cripple our nation. We can’t expect them to be smart consumers, but giving-up on them and telling them what to do isn’t the answer.
We must include them in the discussion. We–those thoroughly educated in health care and its associated topics–cannot continue our insulated discussions, disseminating new and important information amongst ourselves, in our own communities and journals. Doing that isn’t the answer to correcting the education gap. We need to reach out to people in the community at-large. This doesn’t mean writing an Op-Ed in the NYTimes. This doesn’t mean hosting a panel discussion on CNN. Prestigious mediums aren’t always the answer. Health care in big cities is different than health care in small cities, and health care in small cities is different than health care in small towns. All people aren’t the same, and we can expect everyone to learn and appreciate the same way. The patient-centeredness movement is a start, however, we have a long way to go before reaching a semblance of parity.