By Dave Racer
Do you ever feel like a number, not a person?
In order to provide services to you, the healthcare system is likely to link your Social Security Number to several other numbers. Identifying you is, of course, important to your well-being.
Treating you as a number and not a person, however, is a different matter.
A conflict is brewing in the era of healthcare reform. Reformers often focus on creating system-wide efficiencies in an attempt to reduce cost. As a result, there is a balancing act between what is best for the most number of people, and what is best for each individual.
To remain an individual in the era of population health, you must proactively do all that you can to make sure your care is patient-centered.
At worldmeter.info I am told there are 7.4 billion people in the world. The website also says there are 323.1 million Americans. These are huge populations.
Providing and paying for healthcare for 323.1 million people is a huge challenge for the United States. It is the central point of the healthcare reforms we’ve experienced since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010.
One of the relative new buzzwords informing ACA healthcare reformers is “population health.” A definition of population health acceptable to most reformers is hard to find. One definition is “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” The hard part for reformers is knowing who fits into what group or groups, and how it will affect your ability to receive and pay for healthcare services.
Public policymakers apply the population health concept to healthcare budgets, practice guidelines for physicians, medical research, bedside care, clinical services, and just about anything else related to healthcare.
The federal government has invested billions of dollars pursuing effective and useful electronic health records (EHRs), and to build a massive repository of healthcare data at the national level. This healthcare data, it is thought, can be used to guide doctors, hospitals, and other medical professionals concerning the care they provide to patients.
Population health data records do not include the names of individuals, only numbers that are able to be grouped together and analyzed for many different purposes. The data can be reduced to mathematical formulae that guide healthcare professionals, payers, and government planners in the distribution of healthcare.
A potential conflict exists, however, between population health data and individual needs.
This is where you come in.
Regardless of population health trends, each of us wants to be more than a number. Our reality is that we want to stay healthy, and when we are suffering, or our life is threatened, we want to be treated in a welcoming healthcare system as an individual human being. We want the data of our individual life to take precedence over population health data that might conflict with it.
The implications of being a name, not a number, are great. The most obvious implication is self-preservation and individual quality of life. The great news is that in the United States we retain the freedom to manage our own lives.
Making sure we are more than a number in the healthcare data set starts with taking care of ourselves. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for instance, asserts that as much as 70 percent of healthcare spending is related to preventable conditions, chief among which is obesity. Just as important, is learning how the healthcare system works so you can partner with medical professionals when you need help.
Knowledge of how our healthcare system delivers individual care to you is a life-changer.
The best way to guard against becoming just a number in a population health system starts with choosing to take ownership of your healthcare. Trig’s mission is to serve as a central resource to help you access healthcare, to become an informed healthcare consumer rather than a number in a system.
Dave Racer is a writer, researcher, publisher, speaker, and teacher. As such, he has written and/or edited 44 books, of which 14 focus on healthcare and health finance issues. Dave has spoken in more than 25 states and all across Minnesota as a keynoter or educator about healthcare, and a broad array of issues and ideas. Since 2005, he has been speaking about healthcare reform, including legislative and congressional actions related to the financing and delivery of health. Dave is also the President of DGRCommunications, Inc., providing research, writing, publishing, and communication services for a diverse group of individual and corporate clients, and is the founder and CEO of Alethos Press, a book publisher.