Americans postpone dealing with problems until they cannot be avoided. Global warming? Tomorrow's problem. Dilapidated education system? Today's problem that we're going to deal with tomorrow. Aging population? Who has time for that?
In fact, our aging population is an enormous problem that some argue eclipses other pressing national concerns like immigration, energy security, and the national debt. It isn't a very sexy issue, but the truth is that we are running headlong into a real crisis that is only going to be bigger the less we talk about it.
Here are some of the facts:
The aging crisis is a culmination of Baby Boomers reaching their golden years and life expectancies reaching their highest levels ever. Those two factors are driving a problem of trillion dollar proportions. How does a healthcare system that is already over-burdened and costly expand to accommodate an influx of millions of senior citizens?
One solution that health insurance companies have begun using is managed care providers. These are companies that continuously care for people outside of major hospital visits, frequently in members' homes. They employ nurse practitioners who encourage proper medication use, catch problems early, and reduce the impact on the healthcare system by way of preventative medicine.
Brian Wise, CEO at Advance Health, a managed care company with a national nurse practitioner network, says the data demands a greater emphasis on preventative care and care gaps. "This is not a new industry, but it is an industry that needs to rapidly expand in response to our aging population and the rise of chronic diseases," says Wise. "Our research has shown a 15% decrease in hospital visits and a 14% decrease in costs incurred from hospital visits when members benefitted from a managed care program."
Much is made of preventative care, and with good reason. The CDC's report on promoting preventative services for the aging population notes that, "National experts agree on a set of recommended clinical preventive services that can help detect many of these diseases, delay their onset, or identify them early in their most treatable stages. Despite the cost-effectiveness of many of these services, the percent of adults who are up to date on receiving them is low."
It is puzzling that, despite being a cost-effective solution, many Americans do not benefit from the preventative care that companies like Advance Health offer.
"That is at the forefront of what we do every day, working to engage members to receive visits from our caregivers," says Wise. "We are able to diagnose early, educate, and assist members in taking care of their health before conditions become serious and debilitating, and oftentimes we do it right in our members' homes. We have built our company around being able to engage people in our network."
These managed care companies reflect more than just a cost-effective healthcare solution. The looming crisis demands that we rethink the way that medicine is delivered to large sections of our population. Every aspect of the healthcare industry will be impacted and the resulting changes may totally alter the way we see medicine. The service that Advance Health offers is a step in that direction. It makes healthcare incredibly accessible at a low cost, and it emphasizes preventative care. That is essential for our healthcare system to be able to cope with the influx of millions of new seniors.
There are myriad issues that will challenge policy makers, healthcare professionals, and insurance companies in the coming years. One trend that just might become a mainstay of American medicine is preventative medicine through managed care companies. Doctors don't visit homes anymore, but nurses do. And that needs to become commonplace.