Truth in Healthcare, Part Three: Earth to Patients

June 11, 2019 by Katie Davis

Senior adults can't afford to gamble on healthcare.

You’re reading a series of posts by CarePods’ CEO Katie Davis outlining her thoughts on the core truths that drive the delivery of care for older adults in today’s healthcare system. You can find the most recent post in this series here. This week, we’re diving deeper into Truth #2: Doctors, patients and other healthcare providers operate within a system they don’t control: we exchange our independence for security.

Studies show that humans experience a higher degree of stress when they cannot predict that something negative will happen then they do when they are certain a negative event will occur.

Said simply:  we fear the uncertainty surrounding negative events more than we fear the negative event itself.

When it comes to receiving healthcare as we age, it stands to reason then, that above and beyond helping us predict and manage our healthcare costs, most people value health insurance because it reduces our fear of uncertainty related to our health – an area we ultimately cannot control.

But there are very real challenges associated with a system driven by insurance companies.

For example, have you ever been to the doctor and felt that they rushed you out of the door? Have you noticed that your nurse or doctor sometimes spends more time on the computer than they did talking to you? If so, you’re not alone.

According to a recent study, physicians and other providers spend on average nearly 66% of their time completing paperwork, and only 33% of their time engaged in clinical observation or decision-making.

This creates a domino effect that is ultimately impacting the supply of primary care physicians and subsequently, the amount of preventative and chronic care that patients receive.

One study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that patients in the United States receive only 55% of recommended chronic and preventive services. This is particularly troubling for senior adults, whose chronic and preventative care needs are much higher than the average population.

With this gap in care, senior adults often suffer preventable acute-events that lead to a hospitalization or institutionalization in a senior care facility. From there, the Medicare and supplemental Medicare system is put into motion, and very few senior adults ever return home.

I’ve spent over a decade in the senior care industry and during that time, I’ve seen many families make decisions that run counter to their loved one’s best interests because they assume the hospitalist who recommended that Mom go to a skilled nursing facility did so after a thorough review of all of Mom’s conditions and desires.

The truth is, that doctor likely spent fifteen minutes on Mom’s record and then passed her file along to the in-house discharge planner who has been tasked with getting her out of the hospital as quickly as possible to avoid payment penalties.

Many clinicians are burned out and fed up with this model. After all, they didn’t go to medical school to learn how to complete paperwork. Like the patients they serve, they are simply curtailed by the limits of the system they are forced to operate in.

This is a system that fails to give senior patients or clinicians the one thing they need most: TIME.

So, is this a political statement…. A ‘woe-is-me’ blog post? Oh no, not anything of the kind… it’s a call to arms!

We are driven to march along the path of what is known, certain and secure. At times, that path aligns with our actual healthcare needs. Many times, it does not.

As a patient or as a caregiver, I ask you to consider that now, more than ever, it is your responsibility to ask questions and challenge the next step in partnership with your physicians.

Doing so is one of the most certain ways to receive better care in a flawed system.

Until next time,