If you talk to policy makers, insurers, employers and even patients themselves, each knows that a perfect solution is in short-supply. However, there is a need to do something different, and fast. Rising health care costs have created by a perfect storm: our aging population and the increase in (sometimes) preventable illnesses such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, and add to that the increasing cost of medical advancements that we have come to expect.
Twenty percent of the population accounts for 80 percent of healthcare expenditures [according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 5 percent of the population accounts for almost half (49%) of total health care expenses.]. Most of the expense comes from conditions where lifestyle and prevention have a heavy hand. The majority of the expense comes from ER visits, hospital re-admissions and medication for chronic, preventable illness. This doesn’t account for loss of income, economic hardships on families, loss of productivity and most certainly not missed quality of life.
A recent medical study done by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said that by 2020 there could be a 60% obesity rate in the State of Ohio. We could potentially be raising the first generation of children who will not outlive their parents because of the obesity problem. And if we only dealt with the child obesity piece and the metabolic syndrome by which we can determine, seven years in advance of when diabetes is going to occur, we could take $850 billion dollars out of the healthcare dollars spent, like that. If we took smoking, that would reduce another $400 billion in spending, and all we did was change two behaviors."
All this requires a fundamental change in the nation and our thinking about healthcare. At Akron General, we've made that leap. And our ideas are spreading beyond northeast Ohio. Other healthcare providers, insurers and employers are seeing the future also.
The nation can no longer rely on the acute care model. Akron General has pioneered the wellness prevention model in our area, and the lessons we learned can apply all across this country. Our current advertising campaign is "Knowledge Is Power." But what that is really about is innovation. And what healthcare systems need to be about is not just about taking care of the sick, but about being innovative. And our collective knowledge can lead to new ways to thinking about healthcare and to innovations that will manage costs while improving our lives.
There's a personal piece in this, the patients must change, the payers must all be involved. And to deal with this on a governmental level only looking at the payers' side, only is covering one leg of that three-legged stool. It's all of our problem, folks, but it can be changed. And I think it can be by changing from a sick care model to a well care model. At Akron General, we are proving that every day one patient and one LifeStyle member at a time, and that is how we can afford to stay healthy.
(Excerpted from Dr. Stover's Akron Roundtable Address, October 18, 2012)