By Phil Polakoff MD, MPH, MEnvSc.
Consulting Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine
Executive Producer|Host, A Healthier Me™
After working in the healthcare industry for forty-five years as a practicing physician and healthcare executive, I believed I had a firm grasp on the complexities of our healthcare system. However, it was not until my recent “outside looking in” experience as a patient and subsequent payer that I truly understood how deeply our health care system was and continues to be in need of improvements. To be kind, my personal experience(1) was an abysmal affair exposing first-hand the ineffectiveness and wasteful inefficiencies of America’s current health care apparatus. I was appalled and joined the 81% of Americans(2) who feel the same way.
While discouraged, I’m not content to sit back and complain. Instead, I want to participate in transforming our health(care) system…seriously. This ambitious goal starts with convincing Americans to make health a priority in their lives. There are plenty of problems that need fixing in America, but first and foremost this country needs to get Healthier.
To achieve the goals of better health and better care, I’ve concluded that it will have to be “we the people” who push for the best possible solutions. Expecting the goliath health care industry to do it on its own would be like tastefully encouraging a pig not to wallow. From this transformer’s perspective (of what now appears to be an intractable and overly complex issue to most citizens), the path forward is relatively simple — — somewhere in the middle — — the best of both worlds — — an innovative hybrid health care system that the vast majority of Americans can embrace and support. There. I’ve said it. In the middle. Political blasphemy.
The fundamental transformations aren’t complicated. From the top down, cut $700 billion(3) worth of estimated waste annually from the system in the form of unnecessary services, inefficiently delivered services, over-priced services, excess administrative costs, missed preventive opportunities and fraud. From the bottom up, stabilize insurance premiums and the cost of prescription drugs and demand consumer accountability for irresponsible lifestyle choices. But as sensible as this sounds, it is rife with political conflict.
We agree that significant solutions cannot really be squeezed into two sentences, but rather than overwhelm ourselves in the galaxy of Affordable Care Act reform details, this transformer believes that we all need to start by leaving contentious politics at the door, and understanding the most basic numbers, problems and potential solutions. We also need answers from the politicians who willingly write the checks.
In 1948 the World Health Organization put forth a visionary definition of health… “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Today, nearly 70 years later, the majority of Americans believe that their health care system is ineffective, inefficient, fragmented, costly, and politically crippled by an unsustainable partisan divide. With our frightening rates of obesity, diabetes and drug addiction, just to name a few, apathy is not going to be a successful treatment. So do what you can do. For my part, I am jumping into new media and launching A Healthier Me™, a digital show designed to educate the public on a wide variety of topics in health and healthcare from Zika to climate change. While getting in front of the camera and into social media are new experiences for me, helping people to get well and to get healthier has been a lifelong passion.
Please ask the tough questions to those you elected to represent you. Your health and your family’s health depend on it.
Originally published at medium.com