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Consumerism Trumps All in Healthcare Transformation

January 13, 2017

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By Vikas Arya

Policy makers could better use resources promoting programs that engage individuals in managing their health and improving population health.

Trying to make sense of our healthcare system causes confusion and frustration for most Americans. When we look for answers, we seem to come away only with more questions about payment, accessibility and the quality of services. For more than 3 decades, policy makers have attempted to address the issues of rising cost, limited access and poor quality with mixed results at best, and new leaders think that simply replacing ineffective policies with their ideas will fix a system that has been broken for more than 30 years.

There is sufficient evidence to show that policies alone will not improve our healthcare system if they simply attempt to solve the cost equation without addressing its primary determinant – behavioral risk – and narrowly focusing only on Provider-side utilization. But the future isn’t all doom and gloom; increased focus on “Consumerism” and Population Health are attempts at better understanding and managing different types of risk at both individual and community levels. The question is whether our policy makers will focus their attention and efforts in these areas.

So much of current and future healthcare policy is focused on reducing cost by either manipulating benefits or streamlining operations but not on reducing individual health risk. Public leaders should create policies that promote population health management programs and motivate consumers to become more engaged in managing their personal health. Replacing old policies to simply score political points does nothing to reduce behavioral risk, lower costs or improve health outcomes.

Demographics, behavioral, lifestyle decisions and social factors indicate that the overall health risk of the U.S. population is increasing. Rather than engage in political rancor, policy makers should spend their energy developing programs that will help reduce individual and population health risk. Putting aside political views, the time is now for government leaders to create positive change by developing policies that give individuals the tools and encouragement to improve their own health and as a result, lower the burden on our healthcare system.

Want to learn more about Population Health and changes in current healthcare policies? Attend the Population Health Colloquium March 27-29 in Philadelphia where I will be hosting a 2-hour session, “The Ultimate Game Changers: How Healthcare Will Change in 2017”. Panelists include Bob Esposito, CEO of NAVEOS; Russ Mohawk, CEO of Health Plans and Population Health Services for Inova Health Systems; and Jesse James, CMIO of Evolent.