As a student of Public Health, I’ve had the opportunity to critically understand our research system and the way our nation’s academics take on the pursuit of knowledge and discovery. Through my years as an undergraduate student/researcher and now a graduate student/researcher, I’ve seen examples of great research papers and examples of papers that quickly find their way to the fireplace. It’s probably fair to say that all papers that get published into journals have some sort of contribution to make, yet many of them contribute the wrong type of knowledge, frequently misleading the industry and the readers. Remember that paper you read yesterday about coffee and cancer? Read another one today that contradicts it.
For the past decade, health care has been in the forefront of economists and policy-makers. In a system that currently spends 17% of GDP on health care, and projected to increase by 5.8% yearly until 2020, it’s no secret to the average American that health care is going through major changes, both at state and federal levels. Meaningful Use, a set of policies intended to increase #HealthIT adoption, initially focused on ensuring adoption by practitioners and health care providers across the nation. With MU Stage 2 on the horizon, the ONC has now added a focus on the patient, giving patients the ability to gain timely access to their data. I have confidence that future stages (3, 4, etc), will only build on this framework to include the patient as a principal actor in the heath care process.
From a health policy standpoint, the patient has been largely ignored in the health care equation. Since the financial contribution of most patients is minimal, the role of the health care consumer has fallen out of sight. Most new proposed laws and reforms attempt to fix problems by reducing reimbursements and increasing adoption of technology to improve processes and lower costs. Yet none of these regulations include the patient in the cost-reduction program. This post promotes the patient as an important player and decision-maker in the health care process. So how can the patient help decrease health care spending?