The American healthcare system is one of the world’s most expensive, yet health outcomes frequently are no better than other developed nations. Why is this happening? The key issue is that we have a medical system that is designed to successfully treat disease, rather than a system invested in maximizing the wellbeing of individuals prior to illness. As chronic disease is on the rise, we’re seeing the current system fail to accommodate today’s medical climate and increasing the burden of illness on individuals and society as a whole. So it begs the question, isn’t it time we shift our mindset and health care system to meet the needs of today’s patients?
Our Current Sick Care Paradigm
Currently, the health care system is based on a reactive approach to illness. We wait until people are sick before we treat them and focus on symptoms and disease treatment, rather than proactively addressing their overall health and wellbeing. This is referred to as a “sick care” mindset. While this seems like an appropriate way to approach your health, it’s no longer working for today’s climate of illness and disease.
The system was designed to accommodate illnesses in the past where they tended to be acute. These conditions generally develop suddenly and last a short time, often caused by a virus or infection. This meant that when diseases were treated, patients either got better or died. However today, most illnesses are chronic and complex. Unlike acute conditions, chronic conditions develop slowly and may worsen over time, often caused by unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet, inadequate physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, that increase the risk of disease.
Chronic diseases and conditions are on the rise worldwide due to an aging population and changes in societal behaviors. According to the CDC, 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease and 4 in 10 adults have two or more. This major epidemiologic evolution significantly impacts how our medical system should organize treatment for patients, how technologies can be used effectively for patient care, and how quality and safety is ensured for patients. Chronic care needs are growing and putting a substantial demand on health care systems. Despite such a profound change, there has not been meaningful change to accommodate the needs of today’s patients and their health.
The sick care mindset is causing unnecessary strain on our health care system because we’re often dealing with illnesses that have advanced to a critical state, rather than managing them in the early stages, or even preventing them.
Shifting to Health Care
We need to shift our mindset from ‘sick care’ to ‘health care’. A health care system incorporates a proactive and preventative model to health that focuses on preventing issues from occurring again, or even in the first place. The concept of proactive and preventative health is not new. We see this successfully implemented in dental care. As children, we’ve been taught to regularly brush our teeth and floss our gums to prevent cavities and gum disease from occurring. So why don’t we apply this same mindset to the health of the rest of our body?
In order for nations and health care systems to make a shift towards proactive health, we need to move away from treating people as ‘patients’ and view them as ‘people’ with full lives. It involves a multifaceted approach that affects all factors in an individual’s life, taking into account their medical history, socio-economic background, geography and physical environment. On a national level, governments and health care systems must view health through this wider lens and not focus solely on the health issue that an individual is experiencing. This is a long term investment but the outcomes will be well worth it.
Proactive health initiatives encourage patients to take their health in their own hands, allowing physicians to work together with patients to address health problems before they advance. Oftentimes, the subtle changes or stresses in our lives are lifestyle habits, emotional distress, poor dietary habits, lack of exercise and prolonged postures that lead individuals down the path of not feeling well. Over a long period of time, this could lead to injury, illness or disease in the future.
The sick care model is best suited for emergency care and it does an extraordinary job at that. However, there is a gap in the model when it comes to promoting and supporting an individual’s health in the long run. As a result, we’re seeing this downward, cyclical effect of a health care system that fails to improve people’s health and focuses on treating the symptoms to gain temporarily improved health outcomes, leading to subsequent illnesses because the cause was not treated.
Prenuvo Pioneering Proactive Health
At Prenuvo, we are passionate about helping people live happier, healthier lives. We encourage people to start adopting a proactive approach to their healthcare and feel empowered to advocate for their own health. Incorporating whole-body MRI scans into your annual medical routine can help provide a comprehensive baseline health profile which you can use to monitor changes over time. Having a lack of symptoms may not necessarily mean that you’re perfectly healthy. Speak to our team today about how a Prenuvo scan can provide insights into the state of your health, so you can make better-informed choices that can help you have a happier, healthier life.