The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that as of 2012, about half of American Adults have one or more chronic health conditions and about 25 percent have two or more. The epidemic is causing a great increase in the consumption of healthcare, which continues to add to our economy’s ever-increasing GDP spend in healthcare, which is currently around 17%. For comparison, the US spends 12% of the GDP on military defense and 1.1% on agriculture as per the CIA publication library.
With an ever increasing spend in a sector that is so heavily funded by the government, it only seems fitting that the government is undertaking payment reform. Chronic health conditions such as heart failure, obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression are affecting Americans financially, socially, and mentally; but the problem is that healthcare is siloed into specialties: primary care, specialty care, behavioral health, and dentistry.
The problem of not integrating healthcare across all spectrums is that it truly will not suffice for chronic health conditions treatment.
For example, depression and obesity have a bidirectional relationship where being obese tends to increase the chances of depression and vice versa. If someone is seen by a primary care physician and an eating disorder is addressed, the chances of this patient being depressed is 55% according to Kaiser Health News, and the primary care physician is not likely to be able to address the mental health aspect in the short timeframe of the visit, nor is the physician totally qualified to cover the mental health aspect either.
If we know that there are links between the spectrums of healthcare, then why does our healthcare system not address them as a whole? Is it fear of patient poaching from one physician to another? Is it fear of legal liability? Or is it the lack of technology that enables the passage of data from one doc to another?
The answer is probably a combination, but what you, as a consumer, can do now is embrace the preventative care movement. Exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet, get uninterrupted sleep, go for regular checkups, and get your flu shots. Ultimately, we can’t rely so heavily on others to ensure the best care for ourselves. And as a country, we need to advocate for integrated care so that we can be treated as whole, both physically and mentally.