Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE
Ninety percent (90%) of the Medicare dollar is spent on the complications of chronic diseases according to CMS. Eighty percent (80%) of the healthcare dollars for all age groups is spent on the complications of chronic diseases.
I have stated that our medical care system is great at fixing things that are broken. Our healthcare system has not been good at preventing things from breaking. The medical care system has not been good at preventing the complications of chronic diseases once the patient is afflicted with the disease.
There are two reasons for our inability to prevent things from breaking. One, is that most of the abuse to the human body is a result of the patient’s behavior and lifestyle. An additional factor is the genetic predisposition patients have for a particular chronic disease. Physicians can do little to control genetic predisposition presently. Genomics represents a great hope for preventing the onset of chronic disease in the future. Inhibiting stem cell research seems foolish in the face of its potential benefit. Prohibiting the use of embryonic material that is going to be destroyed anyway to me is illogical. The controversy is a result of the science wars presently going on between theology and science. It is my belief once the public understands the potential of genomics and the illogical nature of the controversy, public opinion with turn on the foolishness of the argument and the controversy will evaporate. This is for the future and the prevention of the onset of chronic disease.
Once the patient has a chronic disease, there is much that can be done for each disease to slow or halt its progression and slow or halt the onset of devastating complications. If we were effective in preventing the complications of chronic disease after its onset, this would result in an improved quality of life for patients and a marked reduction in cost to the healthcare system. The present costs of the healthcare system are leading to an increasing number of uninsured as well as bankrupting the nation.
Presently, most studies demonstrate that, with adequate treatment, we can reduce the complication rate of most chronic diseases by 50%. The reduction to the cost of the healthcare system would be 800 million dollars. Theoretically, with perfect control of the chronic disease and perfect medical therapy we could reduce the complication rate by 100%. The result would be a 100% reduction of the 90% of the money spent by the healthcare system on the complications of the diseases.
Most healthcare economists, “healthcare policy experts” and politicians are starting to understand the math. What I have discovered is that they do not understand the process of chronic disease management and the importance of the patient physician relationship. They do not understand the pathophysiology of the chronic diseases or the origin of the complication of the diseases.
The chronic diseases we are talking about are cardiovascular disease and hypertension, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis and muscular skeletal disease (arthritis and collagen vascular diseases, lung disease, AIDs, and cancer. We have a $2 trillion dollar annual healthcare system. The total cost of all chronic disease complications to the healthcare system is $1.6 trillion dollars per year.
A lot of brain power is going into trying to do something to reduce the healthcare system costs because we simply can not go on with ever increasing costs and ever increasing opportunities for facilitator stakeholders to increase there profitability while there are ever increasing number of uninsured persons.
We must have a universal healthcare system. However, universal healthcare does not mean a single party payer. I believe a single party payer system will add bureaucracy and impose rules that will stifle and inhibit innovation. The result will be increased inefficiency and increased cost. We all agree that what has made America is innovation by entrepreneurs and not rules by bureaucrats. I know that the physicians are not the problem. They are part of the problem. There is no reason to create a healthcare system that will methodically inhibit physician innovation. Even worse, drive a skilled labor force (physicians) out of business whose education we as a society subsidized.
Who is responsible for the complications of chronic diseases? It is the patient who lives with his disease and lifestyle 24 hours a day. The patient must learn how to control his disease to avoid the complications of the disease. The physicians can only be the coach or manager of the patients and modify their treatment plan through his experience and clinical judgment. Physicians must teach patients how to adjust to changes in the course of their disease. Physicians have to do this with their healthcare team with the patient being the most important person on the team.
Patients must be provided with education, incentive and financial reward for their successful adherence to treatment regimes. The promise of good health does not seem to be enough of a reward. Once patients understand that they are responsible for their self-management and the management of their health care dollar adherence to treatment will improve and outcomes of chronic diseases will improve. Physicians also have to be compensated for their effort. To help make the patients the professors of their disease is a very hard process. It is much easier for a physician to set a broken arm, fix a hernia, or even do bypass heart surgery. Yet the insurance industry does not value or reward this effort.
If patients owned their healthcare dollar and needed to spend their money wisely, they would become intelligent consumers of healthcare. This would force innovation by physicians and hospitals. They would force and increase the quality of chronic disease management at decrease the cost. This would also create a competitive environment for hospitals to control prices. They would produce a market driven economy as occurs in other areas of commerce. Healthcare is a not marketplace presently. Hospital prices presently have nothing to do with hospital costs. This is why we need the ideal medical saving account owned by patients and not the insurance industry. The Ideal Medical Savings Accounts would align all the stakeholders incentives to enable the best product at the best price in a truly consumer driven healthcare system.
In order to understand its complexity I will discuss the disease management concept of several diseases. Obesity is the worse epidemic we are experiencing at the moment. It leads to diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, each of which has devastating and costly complications. In my “War on Obesity” I have discussed some of its problems. I will integrate obesity into the disease management process.