Released in June, the 2015 Long-Term Budget Outlook says plainly what most politicians will not admit. The US debt has increased drastically in recent years and it’s getting worse. Plus, the report clearly identifies the primary driver as increased federal spending.
The report also states plainly that medical costs associated with an aging population will continue to rise with the very real prospect of catastrophic consequences. The cost of health care for the aged and the cost of servicing the resultant debt have the potential to cripple economic growth.
So let’s back up a second and get this down pat: It’s not greedy pharmaceutical companies (alone) that are driving up medical costs. It’s not insurance companies either. It’s an aging population that is the most important contributor! It’s that simple.
With each passing day our legislators and other representatives wrestle with how to control all the expenses associated with providing access to healthcare for everyone. The Republicans, the Democrats and everybody else all share blame for the ever escalating costs. No one seems to have come up with the answers but maybe if the politicians would stop and ask our general medical practitioners what they suggest, we would get the information and resources we need to solve this national problem.
As the old adage goes “Time is Money” which also points to a genuine answer to containing and cutting back healthcare expenses. Everyone must learn to take care of their own body and do all they can to prevent health problems. While almost everyone has financial limitations they still manage to pour dollars into fun, frivolity and enjoying life even though most do so by indulging in sinful foods, drinks and pleasurable inactivity like watching TV, playing video games or movies, and surfing the Web.
What if everyone had a new kind of fun challenge in life? That is, what if everyone was given the option to EDUCATE themselves concerning their real and potential health issues along with easy-to-implement ways to prevent serious, chronic diseases and remediate existing ones?
But doesn’t the Web abound with self-help medical advice and an incredible array of ways to prevent disease and remediate existing problems? It does, though many of these “solutions” are useless or nearly so. The trouble is many people cannot shift wheat from chaff when it comes to what is medically valid and what is not.
The government has made help available through state-of-the-art health and medical information services such as PubMed. Thanks to the NIH’s use of the latest artificial intelligence programs coupled to vast medical health databases it is possible to at least cull out preventative and treatment options for all kinds of health challenges.
There are also a number of clinics and companies such as the Cleveland Clinic that provide various kinds of free medical information services, although other clinics and firms charge a fee for this. However, no existing company or clinic provides a free service designed to provide accurate self-diagnosis and self-treatment of a wide range of health issues especially those that crop up with advancing age. But this service can be created and made available to the public.
Of course, what good is any service of this sort if people are not motivated enough or posses the education and critical thinking skills to effectively use such a service? These people clearly need something more.
What is required is a form of “HAND HOLDING”. Reflect for a moment on how libraries function: when you can’t find what you are looking for – you ask a librarian who helps you zero in on the exact information that is most likely to meet your specific needs. With respect to health care, helpful, trained HAND HOLDERS would be made available to the public with support and outlets in medical offices everywhere.
Here is how it would work: when a person (“patient-client”) who needs help or is uncertain as to what their problem(s) are and what to do about them, he or she would make an appointment with a HAND HOLDER at a nearby doctor’s office or even an emergency room. The HH would have a medical background (minimally, a medical assistant) and would perform triage, i.e., direct the patient to a physician or to an ER but otherwise would help the patient identify the likely cause(s) of their health problems and viable treatment methods based on the help of a new healthcare computerized database with information culled from PubMed and other government medical databases with analytic input from something like IBM’s Watson. The HH and our NEW public medical Artificial Intelligent computer system would ultimately come up with a “best options” list of recommendations that would be turned over to the client, the attending physician and stored future retrieval as well as disease modeling and the generation of health solutions by the computer.
This medical office based HH would, in effect, be the cornerstone “first stop” for meeting non-emergency and especially prevention focused healthcare needs. People would no longer go to an ER with vague complaints and issues best addressed through diet and lifestyle measures, but instead would consult a HH (with a licensed physician and nurse available on-hand to answer complicated questions and address needs that require seasoned medical judgment).
For those individuals who need to see a physician, the results of their computerized analysis would be given to him or her and become part of their medical chart. The information contained in the report would, in fact, save doctor’s office personnel time in terms of providing vital information upfront and would insure that the patient and doctor BECOME AWARE of their different problems and what is currently available for treatment of these problems. Lack of understanding and the use of this information by patients AND DOCTORS is a serious problem that is not being addressed with our current system of health care. Doctor’s don’t have the time to do extensive database inquiries on their patient’s problems and so almost always provide care that is not based on the latest medical findings. This alone costs our population billions of dollars and needless consultations and therapies that not only cost time and money but also those harm and even kill some patients.
In addition to doling out suggested diagnostic tests, consultations, diagnoses, disease explanations, and therapies, the HH and new health care database would also get feedback from clients and electronically communicate this with this new health care computer system. This feedback would help this new system improve its analyses and recommendations based on patient’s real life problems and responses to thse computer recommendations that are implemented.
Naturally, the question arises: who pays for the HHs and this new health care data base in all the various medical offices? Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the total cost of this per office averages out to $65,000.00 per annum. A 2002 census indicated that there are 25,750 medical clinics in the USA. Using these figures, 25,750 x $65,000.00 = ~ $1.7 billion US dollars. If the federal government were to fund this program, the price tag above would constitute a very small percentage of the total expended on various major programs. Consider this projection for 2017 from the Congressional Budget Office:
PROJECTIONS FOR MAJOR HEALTH CARE PROGRAMS FOR FY 2017
(As of January 2017)
|MEDICARE (Net of Offsetting Receipts)||$592 Billion|
|HEALTH INSURANCE SUBSIDIES AND RELATED SPENDING||$51 Billion|
|CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM||$15 Billion|
Of course, it is anticipated that as the number of people using the HH program grows, the $1.7 billion annual cost would be steadily offset as its clients saved the private and public sectors time/money currently expended on unnecessary ER trips, visits to doctor’s offices, and ancillary services. Just remember all of the times you went to a doctor. Typically, you had a long wait time, lots of forms to fill out, a short exam and even shorter explanation and when you left the doctor’s office, you likely did not take the medications or adhere to other prescribed measures since you did not understand their importance. All of this creates poor outcomes with more office visits and hospitalizations because of “non-compliance” which is really due to the lack of proper education that each of us needs at a time that our minds may not be working quite as well as they normally do since we go to the doctors when we are sick and not feeling well.
For an aging population, time is money and a HH approach is a way to save them both (and the healthcare system that serves them, as well).
The final point is that as with any large complicated system we need to learn from the mistakes our government already has made with regard to problems with funding and implementation of health care programs. The biggest mistake is to think that a new system like this should be implemented nationally all at one time. Rather, it should be tried out in one state to see what problems arise and then to correct them. Then, once the system is working well in the pilot state, it would be implemented in another state and refined there, then with success adopted and implemented by two or three more states, and so on. By implementing the proposed interactive, adaptive new computerized system in this way, a refined and fully functional, streamlined version would likely be up and running in every state in 10 to 15 years time. And with this, of course, is the payoff: decreasing pain, suffering, costs and premature deaths among our aging population.
David A Steenblock, BS, MS, DO
Personalized Regenerative Medicine
187 Avenida La Pata
San Clemente, CA 92673
Dr. Steenblock graduated from the College of Osteopathic Medicine in Des Moines, Iowa with a MS in biochemistry in 1967 and his DO degree in 1970. He did a rotating internship at Providence Hospital in Seattle 1970-71 and ran a 32 bed hospital in a rural logging town 1971-72. In 1972 he spent one year as a second surgical assistant with many surgeons in the Seattle area and in 1973 entered his pathology residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1976-77 he finished his clinical pathology training at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center in Portland, Oregon. In 1978 he opened the first Wholistic Medical Clinic in Lake Forest, CA and has been practicing integrative, complementary, preventive, and internal medicine since. From 2004 Dr. Steenblock has specialized in Regenerative Therapies such as Stem Cells from fat and bone marrow and has treated over 7000 patients with stem cells. His website is www.stemcellmd.org.