While the Washington politicians may continue to debate the pros and cons of health care reform, those of us in the health care industry cannot afford to adopt a wait and see attitude. We have to move forward in some areas we know need to change regardless of political or legislative decisions.
We know that the cost of health care is rising rapidly and even with the best efforts of the government, employers, insurance companies and health care providers, costs cannot be contained without consumers/patients becoming a more integral part of the solution.
We must find a way to encourage consumers/patients that moving from episodic services to preventive care and disease management is a critical part of the solution. Without that, there is not enough money anywhere to adequately fund health care.
That means consumer/patients of all ages and walks of life simply must become more aware of and involved in their personal health. Hospitals, physicians, employers, schools and the media have all supported the concept of preventive care and wellness programs for the last decade plus. There are dozens of magazines dedicated to healthy lifestyles. There are regular newspaper articles, television specials and Internet stories urging the public to eat healthy, exercise, quit smoking, get plenty of sleep and know and manage one’s chronic disease.
Many patients have taken that advice to heart. They make a conscious effort to stay healthy. Unfortunately, not enough people have. As just two examples, the obesity rate and incidence of diabetes continues to skyrocket. Yes, they are related. But they are also very costly. The cost of treating diabetes in 2007 alone was $174 billion!
These kinds of staggering costs cannot be absorbed by the government, employers, insurance companies or hospitals. Consumers/patients must accept the fact that health care in the foreseeable future rests with their commitment to partnering with their primary care physician and/or clinic and hospital in managing their health care and that of their children. When any consumer/patient learns she or he has a disease or an illness that is manageable by diet, exercise, medication or a combination thereof, it is the responsibility of that person to become a part of the health care solution.
I would encourage all consumers/patients to consult with their personal physician or the health care professionals at our Oak Valley Hospital clinics to learn more about staying healthy and managing their own care. There are numerous programs and classes locally available to help individuals accomplish this goal. Some of that information is available at our website, www.oakvalleyhopsital.com. I believe this is a critical component of affordable, accessible health care in the future, but I’d like to hear your thoughts about this concept. Please email me at talktous@OVHD.com
John Friel is the Chief Executive Officer for Oak Valley Hospital. Look for the Health Watch column the third Wednesday of each month in The Oakdale Leader and periodically in The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times.