- the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something. “the care of the elderly”
- serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly or to avoid damage or risk.
- feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.
- look after and provide for the needs of. “to look after, tend (to) attend to, minister to”
At first, it may sound absurd. But today, the greatest threat to the American way of life is healthcare. Not only in terms of economics, but also in terms of quality of life.
Currently, nearly 85% of healthcare expenditures in the United States go to support less than 15% of the population. These individuals are the most vulnerable, sickest and frailest people in the country. A majority are dealing with serious illnesses – mostly progressive, irreversible, life limiting (fatal) diseases.
While the situation has been building steadily, it has escaped the attention of most Americans. Even more don’t realize how much of a threat our healthcare system is to the quality of their lives and to how long they will live.
The Problem with Healthcare
The problem with healthcare is, simply, that it doesn’t care.
Now, before a litany of emails, texts, posts and other reactions starts to build, allow me to explain.
First, healthcare is not synonymous with any one physician, nurse, etc. Rather, it represents the totality of the system of medicine — providers, hospitals, clinics, payers (insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.), care facilities, pharmacies, as well as policies, regulations and any other entity that is engaged in “caring” for the ill. Second, inherit in this definition of care are two significant standards by which healthcare is often measured – length of life and quality of life of patients. Lastly, I speak only of the population dealing with serious illness – most often progressive, irreversible and life-limiting diseases.
Over the next year I will be exploring healthcare from the eyes of a physician, a board member of one of the larger health systems in the United States, an educator, and a caregiver. I seek to share truths about what healthcare systems in the United States are grounded on (a fee-for-service business model), as well as how we as physicians are educated (both the good and the bad). I will share perspectives on why things are the way they are and what is being done to overcome inadequacies of care.
I will also share real-life stories of individuals with whom I have walked a portion of life’s journey. I hope to engage many and promote active questioning about the why, what, and how of healthcare for the most vulnerable and ill.
My hope and intent is to start a movement of thought and inspire others to seek not healthcare reform but a reforming of how we care for others within the healthcare system. I urge you to reach out, correspond with me and engage so that the truth can become clear and we amass a larger voice to affect positive change for all.
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Copyright © 2018 Crossroads Hospice. All rights reserved.
Dr. Timothy Ihrig, Chief Medical Officer of Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, is an internationally recognized authority on hospice and palliative care and advocate for full transparency in patient care. His TED Talk, “What We Can Do to Die Well,” urges doctors to emphasize overall quality of life while helping seriously ill patients approach end-of-life with dignity and compassion. Dr. Ihrig received his Doctor of Medicine and M.A. in Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska. He is endorsed by the Center to Advance Palliative Care as a clinician-educator.