Healthcare providers desperately need our help
In country after country, I witness the same sad situation: caring, often-brilliant men and women toil in the healthcare industry to care for others, but to do so they must battle the system itself. That system has lost sight of what matters, which is humans caring for other human beings.
To simplify things a bit, every healthcare system on Earth has three main stakeholders:
Physicians and clinicians
These stakeholders have to operate within a process that goes something like this:
A disease manifests itself in a human body
Three groups of people interacting in a four-step process. How complicated can it be?
You already know the answer. Our healthcare system has become so complicated that few understand how it actually works and almost no one knows how to fix what is undoubtedly a broken system.
All three stakeholders would love it if technology and bureaucracy could get out of the way and allow physicians and clinicians to help patients. But the details have become so unnecessarily complex and convoluted that common sense has disappeared. For example, administrators, in doing their jobs, tell physicians they need to perform more procedures. Physicians end up comparing themselves to their colleagues on the basis of how many procedures they have done, or even how much money they have earned.
Patients are, to be honest, often baffled beyond belief.
Take me, for example. I’m now 40, but at age 21 I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. For over a decade, I’ve managed my “condition” in part with medications that have side effects. But still, my health is good. For example, I love to trek in the mountains and have gone as high as 6,050 meters.
Recently, new blood pressure treatment guidelines came out (JCN 8 – Evidence-Based Guideline for the Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults). They changed the classification of what constitutes “high” blood pressure. I know because my career revolves around healthcare, not because the system made this clear to me.
The disarray is not just with chronic disease but also cancer and other conditions. A recent cover story of Time magazine talks about doctors rethinking breast-cancer treatment – more medicine isn’t necessarily a good thing.
In some respects, technology functions like a miracle. We have the potential to connect billions of people who lack basic healthcare with medical knowledge and expertise around the world. Not long ago, my colleague’s wife – she lived in a remote village – tragically died simply because she didn’t gain access to a doctor until her condition was beyond treatment. We need to eliminate such tragedies.
In other respects, technology is handcuffing patients, physicians and clinicians, and administrators alike. Our system is far too complex. It is convoluted, and downright crazy.
In many respects, healthcare is simple. Excluding accidents and certain acute conditions, the human body knows how to heal itself, if you provide it a healthy environment in which to do so.
Give a person clean water. Teach them to wash their hands. Teach them to eat a reasonable amount of healthy food, and to get a reasonable amount of exercise. When a condition requires treatment – say, a broken bone – treat it promptly.
The cure for our overly complex healthcare system isn’t more complexity. It’s less. We need to get everything out of the way of talented people who genuinely wish to devote their lives to helping others.
Image Credit: Jason Rosenberg/Flickr